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CHAIM WEIZMANN 
A BIOGRAPHY BY SEVERAL HANDS 



CHAIM 




A biography by several hands 

With a Preface by 

DAVID BEN-GURION 



Edited by 
MEYER W. W.EISGAL 

and 

JOEL CARMICHAEL 



WEIDENFELD AND NICOLSON 

2O NEW BOND STREET LONDON WI 



<g) 1962 by Meyer W. Weisgal and Joel Carmiclxael 



PRINTED IN GRBAT BRITAIN BY 
\VK8TXRK PRINTENTO SERVICES LTD, BRISTOL 



17/6147 



To Vera Weizmann 



Dr Chaim Weizmann was the first totally free Jew 
of the modern world, and the state of Israel was 
constructed) whether or not it knows it,in his image. 

ISAIAH BERLIN, 1957 



CONTENTS 
PREFACE 

by DAVID BEN-GURION, Prime Minister of Israel 

INTRODUCTION 

by MEYER W. WEISGAL 

187^1932 
The Biographical Facts 17 

by ISAIAH BERLIN 

1874-1904 
The Road from Motol 59 

by MAURICE SAMUEL 

190^1914 

The Manchester Period 87 

by ISRAEL M. SIEFF 

WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

Chaim Weizmann as Bacteriologist 107 

by SELMAN A. WAKSMAN 

The Secret of Life 1 14 

by RITCHIE CALDER 

Vision versus Fantasy 1 26 

by AHARON KATZIR-KATCHALSKY 



Vll 



1914r-1919 

Weizmann and the Balfour Declaration 143 

by T. R. FYVEL 

1919-1929 

The Fabian Decade 171 

by ROBERT WELTSCH 

A Portrait in Action 207 

by LOUIS LIPSKY 

1929-1939 

Towards the Precipice 219 

by JULIAN LOUIS MELTZER 

1939-1949 

Tragedy and Triumph 249 

by ABBA EBAN 

Bridge to Statehood 314 

by JON KIMCHE 

1949-1952 
The Prisoner of Rehovoth 325 

by R. H. S. GROSSMAN 

Index 357 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

A portrait of Chaim Weizmann by Oswald Birley, RA 

frontispiece 

between pages 80 and 81 

1 Chaim Weizmann aged 8 

2 The family house in Motol 

3 With Berthold Feiwel 

4 With Ephraim Lilien, Leo Motzkin, Berthold Feiwel and 
Martin Buber 

5 With his family in Pinsk 

6 His house in Manchester 

7 With some of the Faculty of Manchester University 

between pages 176 and 177 

8 The Zionist Commission in Jerusalem, 1918 

9 With Emir Feisal in Jordan 

i o Laying a corner stone at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem 

1 1 With community leaders in Jerusalem 

1 2 With Albert Einstein 

13 In Chicago 

facing page 224 

1 4 Sailing with Mrs Weizmann on Lake Kinneret 

1 5 With Mrs Weizmann in New York 

facing page 255 

1 6 Speaking at the Biltmore Conference 

facing page 256 

1 7 Visiting the detention camp at Athlit 

1 8 The 2 ist Zionist Congress 

ix 



facing page 257 

1 9 Speaking at Rehovoth 

between pages 272 and 273 

20 In the Laboratory at Rehovoth 

2 1 An Honorary Degree from the Hebrew University 
2 2 Reviewing Druze volunteers 

2 3 With Ben-Gurion and Yigal Yadin 

24 Arriving with Mrs Weizmann at the Provisional State 
Council, 1948 

25 After the Assembly of the Provisional State Council 

between pages 304 and 305 

26 Taking his first Oath of Office 

27 With Lord Samuel 

28 to 32 Portraits 

33 Sitting for Jo Davidson 

34 Mourners at the Funeral at Rehovoth 

Photograph No 6 is by D. Taffb, 14 by Lascar Duenner, 16 by Korngold, 

London, 21 by Associated Press, 22, 24 and 25 by Keystone Press, Others 

from the Weizmann Archives. 



EDITORS 3 NOTE 



IN PRESENTING this biography of Dr Weizmann by several hands, 
we have aimed at producing a composite portrait that would encom- 
pass the totality of his life. The task has not been easy: creative 
writers seldom fit readily into a preconceived design. Each author 
has expressed his own views. There is some overlapping, but we hope 
it does not impair the essential unity of the book. 

In the case of Sir Isaiah Berlin's contribution, the Editors point 
out that it was conceived and executed as an objective and factual 
review of Dr Weizmann's life and not as a personal assessment or 
appreciation of his life and works. It will appear, in Hebrew, in a 
coming volume of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica. 

The Editors are indebted to The Weizmann Archives in Rehovoth 
and its Curator, Mr Boris Guriel, for providing hitherto unpublished 
source material to several of the authors of chapters in this book. 

M.W.W.andJ.C. 



PREFACE 



DAVID BEN-GURION 



TWO GREAT MEN rose in the cause of Zionism Herzl and Weiz- 
mann. It is diSicult to find, in the history of any one nation, two men 
who had so powerful an influence over the lives of their fellows, yet 
who were so very different, not only in their capabilities, but in the 
relationship they bore to their people. 

Herzl came from the outer world. He was a typical assimilated Jew 
with no knowledge of his people's culture nor any acquaintance with 
the Jewish masses. He was, surely, moved by an inherent Jewish feel- 
ing, but it was only through reaction to external events that he 
returned to the Jewish people and conceived the idea of the Jewish 
State. It was just this alien quality that fascinated Jews. It is ques- 
tionable whether a Jew from the East could have aroused among the 
the Jewish masses the Messianic fervour stirred by HerzPs appear- 
ance the spectacle of a prophet who had seemingly arisen from 
another world. Yet Herzl came as the emissary of Jewish history to 
awaken his people to self-realization, and to regard themselves as a 
Jewish force. Despite his unfamiliarity with the way of life of the 
Jewish masses in Eastern Europe, Herzl knew that suffering could be 
not only a debilitating force, but an instrument of renaissance. He 
recognized the suffering of the Jewish people and manipulated it for 
the purposes of Zionism. But Herzl's feeling toward his fellow- Jews 
was one of compassion and love the feeling of a distant relative 
standing aloof from his kinfolk. He had no idea of the faults of the 
Jewish character. Even if he had, he would never have dared to 
criticize them: for he was not one of their kind and would have been 
chary of giving offence. 

Weizmann was the exact opposite in a number of essential respects: 
for one thing, he was first and foremost a Jewish Jew. He was born 
in a small hamlet within the Pale of Jewish settlement in Russia; he 
was bred in the lap of Judaism, amongst the masses of Israel. He was 

B i 



nurtured in his people's qualities of insight, humour and intelligence; 
and, although he later settled in Western Europe where he studied 
and acquired the ways of European culture and became its scion, 
speaking its principal languages German, French and English as 
fluently as he spoke Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew, the intimate 
medium in which his keenness, humour, alertness of mind and 
straightforwardness found their best expression was Yiddish. 

Herzl found his way to Eretz Israel through the idea of a Jewish 
State, the territorial idea; Weizmann, on the other hand, found his 
way to the State of Israel through an inward and Messianic tie with 
the Land of Israel, This love of country he had acquired with his 
mother's milk, in religious school, through the Hebrew language, 
through Hebrew prayer; it was an organic part of his nature. That 
was why he opposed the Uganda proposal so passionately, in spite of 
his practicality and realism. To his mind Eretz Israel as such stood 
above State and Land. 

For this reason, Weizmann was the greatest Jewish emissary to the 
Gentile world. He was an ambassador to the Gentiles, the most gifted 
and fascinating envoy the Jewish people ever produced. There was 
no other Jew in whom the non- Jewish world perceived the embodi- 
ment of the Jewish people, with their ability, their will, and their 
longings. He was perhaps the only truly great ambassador produced 
by the Jewish people throughout the generations. 

Weizmann fascinated the Gentiles with his Jewish grandeur, his 
Jewish profundity, his genius for depicting for them the deepest and 
most intimate emotions of the people of Israel. 

I was not prominent in Zionist councils at the time of the Balfour 
Declaration; I know only from reading of Weizmann's tremendous 
personal influence and charm during his encounters with men like 
Balfour, Lloyd George and others; but later, when I was privileged 
to be Weizmann's aide in the Zionist Executive, I had the oppor- 
tunity of attending a number of meetings at which Weizmann spoke 
to Englishmen of all political parties, Tories, Liberals and Labourites, 
and I was able to see in what esteem he was held by people of all 
strata. They felt that generations of the Jewish people at its noblest 
were addressing them. 

Weizmann was known as a man of moderation, a man of compro- 
mise, as it were, and for that reason many opposed him within the 
Zionist movement; but I do not know whether they were aware that 
Weizmann's moderation was evident only when he spoke to us, to his 
brethren, to the Zionists, at our Congress, for he knew our limits. But 
Weizmann was neither moderate nor humble when he spoke to the 
non- Jewish world. I was often present when he spoke to Cabinet 



Ministers and to those in high places, and I was always astounded by 
the inner forcefulness, sometimes even aggressiveness, of his manner. 
It was a different Weizmann from the one who appeared on Congress 
platforms : the full force of Jewish anguish, the historic humiliation of 
our people, the profound truth of both our miseries and our hopes 
sprang from his throat; and that was why whatever he said was 
heard with respect though not always accepted, since the Jewish 
message is not easily accepted by this world. 

Weizmann was the seer and man of action; he had to grapple with 
all the hindrances that confront the man of action. There were those 
who accused him of lacking foresight. They did not know him; fore- 
sight was not enough for him: he bent all his immense abilities 
toward the realization of the vision. It was, therefore, inevitable that 
all those whose strength lay entirely in verbal prowess, and who 
made and unmade worlds by the power of mere speech, should look 
upon Weizmann slightingly. His greatness as a Zionist lay in the fact 
that he strove, and built, and laid foundations. There are no bounds 
to the lofty spirit of those who live in a world peopled by fancies, nor 
any limit to their loquaciousness; Weizmann was a man of action, 
and he was consequently required to show patience, stubbornness 
and a deep understanding of difficulties. 

Weizmann was the only practical man among all the Zionist 
leaders, and the only one among them who left the Diaspora not 
through external persecution or edict, or catastrophic upheaval. He 
had a proud and assured position in England such as was given to 
few Jews in the world, but he belonged to a family of outstanding 
pioneers and men of action. He identified himself personally with the 
undertaking in Eretz Israel and settled in this land. 

When Hitler came to power Weizmann realized more than anyone 
the scope of the approaching calamity. The moderate statesman, who 
had believed in gradualness, in slow but steady progression, who 
urged patience and restraint, himself ceased to exercise self-restraint 
and became intolerant of delay. 

In 1936, it will be remembered, a British Royal Commission under 
the chairmanship of Lord Peel came to this country in the wake of 
the anti- Jewish terrorism that had been organized by the Mufti of 
Jerusalem with the aid of Hitler and Mussolini. Dr Weizmann's 
testimony before this Commission was, perhaps, the most profound 
and penetrating analysis ever given of the plight of the Jewish people 
and their position in the non- Jewish world, coupled with the strongest 
and most vigorous claim ever put forward for the immediate creation 
of the Jewish State as the only deliverance from the danger threaten- 
ing the Jewish masses. I do not think there is in the whole of Zionist 



literature anything as profound, as awe-inspiring, as penetrating, or 
as true. It is interesting that Weizmann did not speak of the sixteen 
million Jews in the world, but dwelt only on the six million Jews in 
Europe, devoid of hope and facing imminent danger. He expressed 
this theme of direct and urgent danger with deep Jewish emotion 
and the prescience of a prophet of doom; his statement made a 
tremendous impression upon his listeners. For the first time we then 
heard fall from the lips of statesmen in whose hands lay the fate of 
Palestine the explicit term, c Jewish State 5 . 

There is no need for me to dwell on the well-known episode of the 
Peel plan, the internal polemic, the hesitancy within the British 
Government. The second World War broke out. The six million 
Jews of whom Weizmann spoke and whose speedy rescue he sought, 
were exterminated by the Nazis who dominated Europe. This catas- 
trophe, the scope and significance of which we are still incapable of 
assessing, had among other things the effect of undermining the very 
foundations on which the Zionist movement had stood. 

With his intuitive perception Weizmann had felt that these six 
million were the mainstay of the Zionist cause at this period. He 
wanted to save them for their own sake, for the sake of their people, 
and for the sake of the future Jewish State. Those in whose hands lay 
the key to their deliverance closed their ears; the destroyer did his 
work without hindrance; the mighty tree of European Jewry was 
felled. 

A second tragedy, the political tragedy of Weizmann's life, then 
overcame the great emissary to the non- Jewish world, and especially 
to Great Britain, the nation chosen as the world's representative in 
Eretz Israel. England withdrew from her mission. The years 1937-38 
witnessed the termination of Britain's desire, and perhaps even 
ability, to assist the Jewish people in establishing their national home. 
This was, perhaps, the crowning disaster in Weizmann's political 
career, because he cherished a deep faith in the British people. 
Indeed, his entire political creed was built upon Jewish-British co- 
operation. But his Zionist and Jewish convictions triumphed even 
over this blow, though not immediately or easily; from the White 
Paper of 1939 until the UN decision in 1947 Dr Weizmann was beset 
by a gnawing inner confusion and stress, and I believe that he failed 
to find his way. 

But even in these years we witnessed his human greatness. He 
performed his Zionist tasks with complete dedication, although offi- 
cially he seemed to be no more than one of the rank and file. I use 
the term 'seemed' because he always towered head and shoulders 
above the people, serving the movement loyally and doing nothing to 



PREFACE 5 

obstruct those who had chosen a new course, although he was for a 
long time sceptical of its correctness. 

Weizmann found himself again with the creation of the State; 
rarely in history does a creator achieve his reward. Moses died when 
he saw the land from afar. Herzl died on alien soil whilst the dream 
of his life was still remote from realization. Weizmann was privileged 
to see the fruits of his life's toil; the State of which he had laid the 
foundations and which he had spent his years building. And the State 
of Israel was proud to elect Weizmann its first President. His presi- 
dency enhanced the glory of our State and nation, just as the State 
was the crown of his life's work. 

I know that I shall not be doing full justice to Weizmann's great 
personality if I limit these words to his Zionist aspect. Weizmann was 
a man of spirit and an illustrious man of science, and his scientific 
achievements entitle him to an honourable place in the history of the 
Jewish people and mankind. He was a rare example of the synthesis 
of the Jewish spirit with the highest European culture of our times. 
In himself he blended vision and fulfilment to a degree achieved by 
none before him. He was the man of intellect and of science, who not 
only understood the value of science in the resurgence of Israel and 
the creation of our new life, but who had himself made a tremendous 
contribution to scientific advancement, laying the foundations in this 
country for its institutions of higher learning the Hebrew Univer- 
sity in Jerusalem and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovoth. 

Weizmann had such vitality that I feel reluctant to write about 
him in this rather impersonal and remote form, which I am afraid 
sounds almost like a eulogy. I should like to quote from a letter I 
wrote him after the Zionist Congress in 1937, where, for political 
reasons, I had been fighting him as vigorously as I could. This letter, 
written in the heat of battle, is a more accurate, because more 
immediate, testimony to the feelings I and millions of other Jews 
always had toward him, than any philosophic summing up of his 
career: 

Dear and venerated Chaim: 

I am very, very sorry, much more than I can express in words, 
for having caused you yesterday, before the close of the Agency 
(session), distress and suffering. I have loved you all my life; all 
Jews have loved you since those great days of the Balfour Declara- 
tion. But you were sevenfold dearer to me when I saw you after 
the iyth Zionist Congress (1931). In your distress and humiliation 
a new Weizmann revealed himself to me then not Weizmann the 
leader, the magician and charmer, but Weizmann the man, full of 



DAVID BEN-GURION 

pain, wounded, writhing in his anguish and conquering, with 
supreme moral heroism, his personal ambition, putting himself as 
an ordinary, devoted soldier at the service of the Movement that 
had wounded him. 

Your 'exile 5 lasted four years; during those four years I and 
many of my comrades had a bitter feeling : as if we were partners 
in the cruel strategem used against you. Your return to the leader- 
ship of the Movement seemed to me not only a political need but, 
first and foremost, a moral necessity. The Zionist Movement was 
not flourishing; it was burdened by the sin of having 'stabbed its 
teacher'. From the political point of view you remained the leader 
even when not elected to the official Presidium, but we felt that 
we must give back to the Zionist Organization its * honesty towards 
itself. Therefore it was a must that the igth Zionist Congress 
should re-elect you. 

And after I had the privilege of working closely with you, I 
saw you in a new light. I never was a blind follower of yours, and 
I never will be. I did not always agree with you; whenever I felt 
that I had to oppose you, I did so; if in the future I again see a 
need to oppose you, I shall do so again. 

But even in the fury of battle my feelings of love and veneration 
for you were not diminished by one iota. I know that you are the 
champion of the Jewish people, not because you have been elected 
(to this post) by a majority, but because you were born for it; the 
'Shechinah' of the Jewish People rests upon you. And, during the 
last few months, when the great hope of establishing a Jewish 
State began to glimmer, I saw this Shechinah', shining over you 
with a great and new light, and a new power of youthfulness, 
revealed itself in you, with grace and charm to an extent invisible 
to my eyes before. And, although even in those months, I have 
sometimes disagreed with you about one detail or another, I know 
that this time you are bearing upon your shoulders a historic 
burden not borne by any other Jew for the last two thousand 
years. I also know that every one of us now, more than ever before, 
stands by you with all his heart and with all his might so that you 
may succeed in carrying out the stupendous task imposed on you 
by the historic destiny of our people the renewal of the Kingdom 
of Israel. 

The task imposed on you now, is in my view, greater and more 
difficult than the burden of the Balfour Declaration. The hin- 
drances and pitfalls on your road are now more manifold than 
ever. There are more objective hindrances and there are also more 
enemies, not only from the outside, but also from the inside. Our 



PREFACE 7 

enemies have been joined by the cowards and the blind. But if the 
number of our opponents has grown, so has our strength our 
strength in the country, our strength in the Jewish people, and 
our strength in the world. And you are the personal focus of this 
strength. There is no other man or circle of men in the Jewish 
people that can compare with you. I do not believe the superficial 
theory that history is made by personalities. But I do believe that 
unique personalities are the emissaries of the collective energies of 
nations and of classes in history. The Zionist enterprise and Zionist 
vision have beamed all their light on their supreme emissary, and 
this light is growing apace. . . . 

There are in Eretz Israel one hundred thousand Jewish workers, 
and I am one of them and no more than that. As one of them, 
you are dear to me as the Chosen One of the people; as one of 
them, I know that I must stand by you, and as one of them I pray 
for your success. 

I am sorry that I caused you grief. When I saw you yesterday 
in your anguish I was unbearably sorry because I love you with all 
my heart and with all my soul. I want you to know that I had not 
intended to grieve you. Let us hope that we shall soon have a 
more satisfactory state of affairs. 

With love and confidence, 
D. Ben-Gurion 

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion of Israel has been in the front 
rank of the world pianist leadership for more than a generation. 
He became Israel's first Prime 'Minister in 1948 at the birth of the 
New State, in which he played a decisive role. 



INTRODUCTION 



METER W. WEISGAL 



TO THE EXTENT that one can pinpoint the exact moment at which 
a book starts to take shape, this one, I suppose, dates back over more 
than eighteen years, to 1944; and to another not entirely dissimilar 
project which was its literary ancestor. 

Dr Weizmann's seventieth birthday was approaching, and even in 
the midst of all the horrors that had begun seeping out of Nazi 
Europe it seemed to me essential to observe it. I thought it appro- 
priate to record the reactions of a number of illustrious statesmen, 
scientists, and philosophers to one of this century's most fascinating 
personalities. The book was published in 1944 under the undramatic 
title Chaim Weizmann Statesman, Scientist, Builder of the Jewish 
Commonwealth. 

It was to be a birthday present for Dr Weizmann and should of 
course have been a surprise. But as the publication date approached 
I began to worry. It was more than possible that Dr Weizmann 
might not appreciate my failure to ask his permission. My associ- 
ation with him at the time was particularly close, even intimate; I 
was his personal representative in the United States. I felt I really 
had to tell him. 

On the other hand, I was afraid he might oppose the entire pro- 
ject. I particularly dreaded his lethal and familiar use of the word 
4 Bilge!' 

I sent him a painfully worked-over letter, and in trepidation 
waited for his reply* When it came it was couched in a characteristic 
melange of irony, admonition, and charm; it ended as follows: 'If 
you must publish this book, please make molehills out of mountains!' 

The phrase was so wholly Weizmann that I used it as the motif of 
that book in 1944, and today, after assembling material again for 
another approach to Weizmann's life to be sure, under vastly 
different conditions I find it is very much on my mind. Under- 
statement was an integral part of Dr Weizmann's personality all of 

9 



10 MEYER W. WEISGAL 

his life his political career as well as his scientific achievements 
were guided, primarily, by his overwhelming insistence on the exact, 
the accurate and the minimized fact. He was severe with those 
around him, but equally so, at least, with himself. His aversion to 
loose claims drove him to test and retest a thousand times whether 
in the arena of realpolitik or in the chemical laboratory. 

In many ways, this trait served him ill. Those who opposed him, 
within the ranks of the Zionist movement, frequently charged him 
with deliberate underplaying, with a kind of caution so extreme that 
in itself it was perilous. Just as he responded with acerbity and some 
annoyance to the idea of a birthday book in 1944, so, were he alive 
today, I am sure he would oppose the publication of this volume 
oppose it but none-the-less permit its publication. He would argue 
that only ten years have passed since his death; that the movement 
he led is still in turmoil ; that many people who helped him and fought 
him are still alive; that the time is far from ripe for any sort of 
literary monument. And he would be right as usual. 

The time has not yet come for a stately literary monument to him; 
nor for an official biography, exhaustively detailed and documented; 
nor for a rounded scholarly assessment of the man and his multi- 
faceted career. 

The Life of Chaim Weizmann will take some years to write and 
until then the material for such a definite work is being made ready, 
slowly and painstakingly, at the Weizmann Archives in Rehovoth. 

In the decade that has passed since 1952, much has been written 
and said about Ghaim Weizmann. Despite his nomadic life, extensive 
records were kept throughout most of his productive life and all of 
those collected are preserved in the archives. So are his voluminous 
correspondence in many languages, his political memoranda, his 
scientific papers, the mountains of newspaper clippings and photo- 
graphs which recorded the various stations of his public life, even 
reels of motion pictures and recordings all these are filed away in 
great vaults constructed to withstand time and climate. They are 
indispensable records, and they await annotation and analysis: the 
final arrangement of fact and interpretation that constitutes a 
meaningful and authoritative biography. But that gigantic task is not 
our present responsibility. 

This is an informal glance backward, an image in mosaic created, 
respectfully, but without paralysing reverence, by a panel of Weiz- 
mann's friends, disciples and even critics. It does not pretend to be 
more than this. Its purpose is simple and modest: to pause and to 
reflect on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of a great man's 
death. 



INTRODUCTION II 

For this reason, we have decided to let this book take the form of 
a chronological narrative of Dr Weizmann's life. Its contributors are 
varied; as varied as were their experiences and the r61es they played 
in the dramatic story of Zionist fulfilment. They vary also in the 
degree of the closeness of their personal relationships with the subject 
of this book. In common they have their knowledge of him; the fact 
that they were spellbound in their different ways; and most pro- 
foundly impressed by him. It is Dr Weizmann's impact on each of 
these writers which essentially qualifies them to appear on these 
pages. None was chosen at random. All were involved in a specific 
period of Dr Weizmann's life; either directly and personally in- 
volved, or involved as experts of that long and exciting era during 
which the State of Israel was in the making. 

Without question, the life of modern Israel is the real expression 
of Dr Weizmann's astonishing gift for creation. Perhaps more than 
any other statesman of our time, he succeeded in effecting an organic 
fusion between the abstractions of the mind and the practical activi- 
ties demanded by man's physical existence. This fusion is reflected in 
the very core of life in Israel today. It is part of the flavour of Israel's 
politics, part of the cacophony of its unflagging discussions, of its 
intellectual posture, of its argumentativeness, of its addiction to 
theoretical formulae and its adoration of dedication. In all these, one 
recognizes easily two major and familiar chords the spiritual tur- 
bulence of pre-revolutionary Russia and, perfectly parallel with it, 
the basic values of Anglo-Saxon democracy. 

Just as these were the twin paths along which Weizmann's politi- 
cal concept developed, with no disharmony or clash ever interrupt- 
ing their growth so Israel itself is an organic coalescence of both 
types of social organization. 

I would not like to be misunderstood. There is much about con- 
temporary Israel that Weizmann would certainly have disapproved 
of, or that in any case would have distressed him. He would have 
been affronted by the overwhelming preponderance of sectarian and 
partisan influence. He himself represented a Jewish nationalism that 
was always global; his dislike for dogma and narrow allegiances was 
deep-rooted and basic. He would have disliked everything in the 
State that is parochial, and everything that is most tolerant of 
expediency. 

But the basic tenet of Weizmann's political and moral beliefs was 
his conviction that the character of a human being or, for that 
matter, of a nation, mattered more than anything else. In all his 
important statements, this theme reappears, implicitly or explicitly: 
'What a man is means more in the long run than what he does. The 



12 MEYER W. WEISGAL 

same is true of Nations.' And I am sure that the essential character 
of the Jewish State, in 1962, towards which he contributed so much, 
consciously and unconsciously, would have been not only acceptable 
but cherished by him. 

It was the qualitative character of this State which concerned 
him most during the last years of his life those months when, ex- 
hausted and spent, he lay chained to his bed in the high room of 
his Rehovoth home overlooking the Judean hills he loved. 

When I saw him then, shortly before he died, he talked about 
science, about freedom of inquiry, about the sacredness of work for 
its own sake, and not for the sake of some trivial reward. In his last 
moments, characteristically, his dual concern remained national 
morality and the universal scope of science. I had the feeling that 
through me he was pleading with the Jewish people not to abandon 
its prophetic values or its standards of morality. 

Now it occurs to me that he never said Israel or the Israelis, that 
he spoke only of the Jewish people. This, too, was characteristic of 
his philosophy. To him, World Jewry and the Jewish State were an 
integral entity. The Jewish people, and not Israel's citizens alone, 
constituted the generating power that would make his vision a 
reality. 

Weizmann always envisaged a coalescence of the best minds and 
heart of Israel and the Diaspora in the joint striving of the Jewish 
people as a whole for self-realization. He never believed in the 
existence of any profound or insurmountable dividing line between 
Israel and the Diaspora. 

To him both Israel and the Diaspora were expressions of the 
Jewish personality. Israel had, after all, been established to redress 
the imbalance of the Jewish community as a whole. Once estab- 
lished, it was to enable the Jews, as a group, to live in inner har- 
mony. Fundamentally, Zionism represented a synthesis of the 
creative energies of the entire Jewish people. These energies were to 
function harmoniously both in the one centre where Jews controlled 
their own fortunes directly and in the numerous centres outside 
Israel where Jews were bound to remain subject to Diaspora influ- 
ences. In Weizmann's view these different centres, both within Israel 
and beyond its borders, would inevitably be linked by bonds of the 
deepest emotional and intellectual identification. 

This was the reason for his overriding concern with the launching 
of intellectual life in Israel along the proper lines. It goes without 
saying that the creation of an economically viable community had 
a certain fateful priority. But this was only on the economic plane. 
A viable economy was a meaningless phrase to him if it did not 



INTRODUCTION 13 

represent a community with high spiritual standards. And that 
community, that feeling of creative mutual kinship, could have only 
a spiritual and intellectual basis. 

He saw a cultural life, in the broadest sense, as a vital prerequisite 
for the fertile expression of the creative energies of rejuvenated 
Jewry. And the cultural foundation had to be well and truly laid. It 
had to underlie the conjunction and ultimately the fusion of the 
activities of both Israel and the Diaspora that alone could lend his- 
toric significance and contemporary effectiveness to the State of 
Israel 

Weizmann had a profound faith in the possibility indeed, the 
indispensability of a close interaction between the Jews in Israel 
and outside. Hence his constant preoccupation with the establish- 
ment of basic cultural institutions in Israel. His interest in them was 
never that of a mere man of learning, of a high-brow (as has occa- 
sionally been maintained). No whim or foible or fantasy made him 
ascribe a role of paramount consequence to institutions of learning. 
He was guided by his unwavering conviction that only through the 
development of the characteristic Jewish contribution to civilization 
which may be summed up as mind plus feeling could Israel in 
the long run survive at all. And only thus would its survival have 
historical value. 

This conviction stands out as another instance of that fusion, so 
marked within him, of traditional Jewish values and the accumu- 
lated knowledge of Western civilization science in the broadest 
sense of the term. 

As a realist, Weizmann by no means underestimated the practical 
aspects of Israeli-Diaspora relations. He respected money, but he 
never equated it with wisdom. Until his last breath he felt that Israel 
must return to the concepts of classical Zionism the unity, the in- 
divisibility of the Jewish people, once again predominantly in the 
spiritual sense. 

But he recognized no conflict between the spiritual and the prac- 
tical. On the contrary: he always believed that a purely material 
partnership, with no moral basis, was inherently ephemeral. 

The quintessence of Weizmann 3 s feelings about the Jewish people 
was perhaps best expressed by himself in February 1949, in his open- 
ing address to the first Knesseth in Jerusalem. 

'Having taken part in the great battles of the human spirit, having 
shed our blood for the liberation of many peoples, we have finally 
won the right to toil and labour in order to give expression to our 
distinct national identity, and to make our contribution to the 
spiritual treasure of the world. Let us strive to strengthen among us 



14 MEYER W. WEISGAL 

the constructive resources of science and research, which are the 
basis of human achievement. Yet, for all the decisive importance of 
science, it is not by science alone that we shall win through. Let us 
build a new bridge between science and the spirit of man. "Where 
there is no vision the people perish." We have seen what scientific 
progress leads to when it is not inspired by moral vision. ... All my 
life I have laboured to make science and research the basis of our 
national endeavour. But I have always known full well that there 
are values higher than science, the only values that offer healing for 
the ills of humanity the supreme values of justice and righteous- 
ness, peace and love.' 

It is this thought that should be kept in mind by the reader as the 
leitmotif, so to speak, of the book that follows. 

Mr Meyer W t Weisgal, publicist and editor, is the head of the 
Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. 



1874-1952 



CHAPTER ONE 

THE BIOGRAPHICAL FACTS 

ISAIAH BERLIN 



CHAIM WEIZMANN was born, according to his own account on 
17 November 2 1874 ( 8tn Kislev, 5635) in the small town of Motol in 
the district (Ouyezd) of Kobrin in the Department (Guberniya) of 
Grodno in Western Russia, on the borders of the kingdom of 
Poland, the third child of Ezer, son of Chaim Weizmann (also known 
as Fialkov) from the village of Serniki, and of Rachel Leah, daughter 
of Michael Tchemerinsky, a tenant of the Counts Skirmunt who 
kept an inn in Motol. Ezer Weizmann was born into a Jewish family 
typical of the Russian Pale of Settlement in the nineteenth century. 
His own father Ghaim was a man of small means, but, as was usual 
among the Jews of Eastern Europe, any child who showed the 
slightest capacity for Jewish learning was vigorously encouraged to 
pursue it. Educational possibilities were limited in the village of 
Serniki, and the neighbouring townlet of Motol offered somewhat 
wider opportunities. As was the custom at that time, the boy Ezer 
Weizmann came with a recommendation to the relatively prosperous 
Tchemerinsky. Soon after his arrival, his host's daughter, Rachel 
Leah, fell in love with him and the marriage was easily arranged, 
Ezer being then sixteen years of age, his bride a little under fourteen. 
Fifteen children were born to them in the course of the following 
twenty-two years, of whom three died in infancy; the rest for the 
most part survived to old age. In order to earn a living, Ezer Weiz- 
mann, after trying other forms of business, became what among the 
Yiddish-speaking Jews of those days was known as a 'transportierer' 
that is to say, a timber merchant, responsible for assembling and 

1 This biography was, in the first place, commissioned by the Encyclopaedia 
Hebraica of Jerusalem, and constitutes the English original of the Hebrew 
version due to appear in that work. The author would like to take this oppor- 
tunity of thanking Mr Boris Guriel, Mr Harry Sacher, Mr Israel Sieff, Mr 
Leonard Stein, Mr Robert Weltsch and Mrs Vera Weizmann, to whom he 
submitted his original draft, for corrections and valuable suggestions. 

2 According to his British passport 27 November. His Russian school-leaving 
certificate gives the date as 12 November 1873. 

17 



i8 1874-1952 

floating rafts of logs to and along the Vistula to its mouth in Danzig, 
where it was sawn and whence it was duly exported. 

Despite his strictly orthodox upbringing, Ezer Weizmann had been 
touched by the modernist tendencies then alive among the Russian 
and Polish Jews. Western enlightenment had begun to seep into the 
Russian empire in the eighteenth century; stimulated by a sense of 
backwardness vis a vis the West and by wounded national pride, it led 
to a sporadic and unbalanced, but spectacularly rapid, development of 
Russian culture, which by the middle of the nineteenth century had 
begun to penetrate even the large insulated enclave within which 
Eastern European Jews lived their traditional, semi-mediseval lives. 
The liberal reforms instituted by Tsar Alexander II (1856-81), had 
raised the hopes of the Jews, as of other oppressed minorities in the 
Empire, that the ancient obstacles which stood in the way of any 
modification of their social, economic and political condition might 
be crumbling at last. The desire for democracy and national self- 
determination, especially among the subject nations in the Austrian 
Empire, which culminated in the European revolutions of 1848-49, 
did much to bring home to individual Jews in the West the full 
anomaly of their own ambivalent status, and in due course this 
awareness affected the more sensitive and educated among the 
Russian Jews also. Men like Peretz Smolenskin, Yehuda Leib 
Gordon and others raised the banner of Jewish nationality. They 
boldly began to use Hebrew, hitherto confined to purely sacred 
purposes, as a vehicle for secular literature; they wrote poems, 
essays, pamphlets, in which they called upon their brothers to break 
out of the frozen religious establishment which cramped their reason 
and petrified their feeling, yet avoid the other, even more humiliat- 
ing and equally fatal extreme, the effort to shed their Jewish charac- 
teristics and forget themselves in the surrounding Russian culture, to 
achieve 'assimilation' to a foreign way of life by deliberately sup- 
pressing everything that was their own. They called for a Jewish 
cultural renaissance by a deliberate policy of reviving the national 
language and national tradition, the sense of national and historical 
identity, in a spirit, though they may not have known it, similar to 
that which, earlier in the century, had animated patriotic historians 
and scholars in Germany, Italy, Bohemia, Hungary and other 
nationalities long ruled by men of alien language and culture. Other 
Jewish writers went further still: Lilienblum and Pinsker had in- 
dependently reached the conclusion that a Jewish national rebirth, 
without which the Jews were doomed to an ignoble decadence, could 
not take place without a territorial base. Pinsker said that the Jews 
were but the spectre of a murdered nation, haunting the living, caus- 



1874-1952 19 

ing everywhere uneasiness, fear and hatred; it would not be laid 
until the homeless wanderers acquired a land of their own, whether 
it be in Palestine or elsewhere. Lilienblum preached that historical 
memories could not be altered; for good or ill, every man had but one 
set of parents and could not exchange them for better ones: Palestine 
was the land to which the Jews were attached by every fibre of their 
spiritual being, thither they must go to create an independent life 
upon a soil of their own. 

These early nationalists had few converts among the Jews of 
Russia, but they had some. A thaw had finally set in the great Jewish 
glacier of Eastern Europe. While the majority remained immovable 
and insulated in the ice of the ancient tradition, a minority had 
begun to drift off; some into assimilation or semi-assimilation, fed 
by liberal hopes of the growth of enlightenment whereby the Jewish 
inhabitants of Russia would gradually be emancipated and treated 
as fellow-citizens by the dominant nationality. Others put their 
hopes in socialism which, by ending class war, would cure all 
forms of social injustice; since the Jewish problem was but a patholo- 
gical form of general social abnormality, it would automatically 
be solved in the revolutionary transformation of society: those 
who believed this tended to join or support clandestine revolutionary 
movements. Still others looked for a more immediate answer in 
immigration to America and other countries where Jews could live 
in freedom, dignity and peace. But there was a handful of men who, 
moved by the wave of national feeling then rising to a new height 
in Europe, obstinately believed in a Jewish culture and a Jewish 
national existence, whether as an independent nation on a land of 
its own, or as a unit in a free federation of nationalities within a 
multi-national empire. Finally, there were those of necessity the 
majority who did not think a great deal, but remained absorbed in 
the immediate problems of physical survival in a violently hostile 
world. There were, of course, many combinations and blends of all 
these attitudes and views. 

Ezer Weizmann was one of the few who inclined towards the 
nationalist solution. He read the e forbidden' modern tracts written 
by the Maskilim? and educated his growing family in this spirit. The 
period was one of great cultural ferment among the Russian Jews. 
Poets, painters and musicians of original gifts, scholars and scientists, 
lawyers and historians, revolutionary socialists and national leaders 
grew up in this milieu the names of Soutine and Pasternak, Dub- 
now and Bialik, Trotsky and Martov, Vinaver and Berenson, will 

*A group of nineteenth-century writers both in Hebrew and Yiddish en- 
gaged in spreading secular culture among the Jews of Russia and Poland. 



20 

serve to indicate the variety of gifts and of social and cultural patterns. 
It was in this rapidly altering, transitional phase between the end of 
one tradition and the beginning of another that Chaim Weizmann 
grew to manhood. He received an orthodox Jewish upbringing. At 
the age of three he was taken into his house by his maternal grand- 
father Tchemerinsky, who, so he is said to have recalled in his old 
age, told the child stories of the humiliations inflicted upon his own 
father and grandfather in the early part of the century by wild and 
tipsy Polish magnates. The boy was taught the rudiments of the 
Bible by a typical melamed 1 of the town, Zvi Bloch-Blumenfeld; he 
was followed by Shlomo Sokolovsky the boy's teacher until he was 
sent to school in the neighbouring city of Pinsk. A letter by Weiz- 
mann is still preserved, written in 1885 (occasioned perhaps by the 
death in that year of Sir Moses Montefiore, the well-known Anglo- 
Jewish philanthropist an oleograph of whose head was to be seen in 
many houses in Eastern Europe) in which the eleven-year-old boy 
says that the kings and nations of the world are plainly set upon the 
ruin of the Jewish nation; the Jews must not let themselves be 
destroyed; England alone may help them to return and rise again 
in their ancient land of Palestine. 

Weizmann showed ability from the beginning. He did well at the 
Realschule in Pinsk. The science master of the school noticed the 
exceptionally intelligent and bright boy, took him under his wing 
and induced him to specialize in chemistry. Ezer Weizmann never 
achieved prosperity, and the boy added to his meagre means by 
giving private lessons to the children of the more prosperous Jews 
of the town. In return for board and lodging he taught the brothers 
Saul and Ovsei Lourie, sons of the prosperous owner of a chemical 
factory in the city, and they and their friends and relations, Georg 
(Gad) Halpern, Isaac Naiditch, Judah L. Berger and others, be- 
came his lifelong friends and allies. He divided his time between his 
chemical and Hebrew studies, the latter under Shlomo Vilkomir in 
Pinsk and Abraham Motolyanski in Motol. In 1895 his entire family 
moved to Pinsk. Three years before this, Weizmann matriculated; he 
obtained the highest marks in every subject, save drawing. His con- 
temporaries at this time recall him as combining luminous intelli- 
gence and uncommon capacity for thorough and continuous work, 
with a strength of character, vitality, gaiety and a biting wit which 
gave him an easy ascendancy over his milieu. The natural course for 
a brilliant Jewish schoolboy was to try to enter a Russian university. 
Under the numerus clausus then in operation, few of the Jews who 
passed the required examinations were admitted: they were not to 

1 Teacher of sacred writings. 



2I 

exceed 10.5 per cent of the student body in the provincial Russian uni- 
versities, or 3 per cent in the universities of Petersburg and Moscow. 

National feeling was strong among Jewish students at this time. 
The great pogroms of 1881 which followed the assassination of 
Alexander II, and were a mere prelude to a general intensification 
of anti-Semitism both in official circles and the popular press, greatly 
stiffened the resistance to russification on the part of the prouder and 
more sensitive among the educated Jews in the Empire. Mass emi- 
gration to America, the creation of agricultural settlements by the 
Khovevei-Zion 1 in Palestine (later supported and augmented by 
Baron Edmond de Rothschild from Paris), clandestine revolutionary 
agitation, terrorist activity all these were characteristic reactions of 
a national minority to the open repression practised by the Russian 
Government. In later years Weizmann spoke with bitter feeling of 
his own experiences at the hands of the Tsarist police. Whether 
from national pride, or because the natural sciences were far better 
taught in the West, he decided to go to Germany. The family was 
not well off, and he declined to take more than a minimum from 
his father. In 1892 he travelled on one of his father's rafts to 
East Prussia, stayed three nights in the city of Thorn, arrived in 
Darmstadt and enrolled as a student in the local Polytechnic. In 
order to supplement his means, he taught Russian in a Jewish school 
in the neighbouring town of Pfungstadt, kept by a Dr Barness. His 
memories of this establishment a mixture, as it seemed to him, of 
pedantry, patriotic conformism and hypocrisy, permanently coloured 
his view of a certain section of German Jewry. The daily journeys 
between Pfungstadt and Darmstadt, followed by giving private les- 
sons in the evenings, proved too exhausting. After two terms, in 1893 
he moved to Berlin and continued as a biochemist in the Institute of 
Technology (Technische Hochschule) in Charlottenburg. 

Berlin at this time was a nursery of future Zionist leaders, as, half 
a century before, it had been of the Russian liberal intelligentsia. 
Weizmann here found himself in the midst of a lively circle of 
Russian Jewish students, bent on resisting Jewish 'assimilationism' 
both socialist or liberal. His friends included Leo Motzkin, Isidor 
Elyashov (who wrote under the name of Baal Makhshoves), Victor 
Yakobson, Nachman Syrkin, Selig Soskin, Judah Vilensky, and other 
young intellectuals Zionists before the term had come into exis- 
tence. The dominant influence on these young men for some years 

a The 'Lovers of Zion* movement constitutes the immediate pre-history of 
Zionism: it was inspired by an ideal of an autonomous Jewish culture rooted 
in a territorial centre in Palestine, and owed a good deal to Russian populism 
and Mazzinian nationalism. 



22 

was the teaching of the most celebrated of all the ideologists of the 
Jewish national revival, Asher Ginsberg, who wrote under the name 
of Ahad Ha'am. This thinker, whose ideas were closely related to 
those of 'Lovers of Zion', preached that the sporadic creation of 
small colonies in Palestine by town dwellers turned farmers, noble as 
their motives were, would prove of small account unless it sprang 
from, and gave concrete expression to, a spiritual regeneration which 
the invention of new institutions could not by itself create, a state of 
spirit which each individual must effect within himself. Unless the dry 
bones of traditional Judaism were covered with living flesh again, 
Judaism would not recover a sense of its past, of its place among 
the nations, and especially of the meaning and purpose of its unex- 
ampled martyrdom during the centuries of the Dispersion. The 
principal task even more important than the return to the ancient 
homeland was psychological self-emancipation, a new realization 
of the values for the sake of which alone Jews had lived and died, 
of what alone constituted their unique contribution to human cul- 
ture, of which the highest was the idea of justice. In a series of essays 
which made a profound impression on founders of modern Jewish 
nationalism, Ahad Ha'am stressed over and over again that coloniza- 
tion or other forms of social and political action would prove abor- 
tive unless they were animated by a historically rooted, specifically 
Jewish, vision of what men were and could and should be. This 
vision could be incarnated only in a spiritual centre built in Pales- 
tine, the only authentic soil in which Jewish culture could achieve a 
new birth. 

In 1896 a Viennese journalist, Theodor Herzl, who had been 
a correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse in Paris, burst upon a 
startled world his Judenstaat a fiery pamphlet demanding the 
creation of a Jewish state by political action public recognition by 
the great powers of the claims and rights of the homeless Jewish 
nation. The Dreyfus case had destroyed a good many optimistic 
delusions about the condition and prospects of the Jews, and led to 
their radical reappraisal. The book was acclaimed and assailed with 
equal passion: Herzl was looked up to as an inspired prophet and 
denounced as a mad and dangerous demagogue. 

The little Russo- Jewish colony in Berlin, of which Weizmann was 
a member, had in fact accepted HerzPs basic propositions before 
he had advanced them; they had a deeper understanding than 
Herzl himself of the Jewish cultural tradition and the part it must 
play in the kind of political transformation for which he was 
calling. They were not as sceptical or as gradualist as Ahad Ha'am, 
who declared that one institution of higher learning in Palestine, 



1874-1952 23 

irradiating the Jewish Diaspora, was of greater value than ten agri- 
cultural settlements, but neither did they, like Herzl, believe in 
the possibility of creating a Jewish State or colony by the dramatic 
intervention of saviours from without the Kaiser, or the Sultan, or 
the Prince of Wales or the British Parliament or by drastic political 
acts, bold and spectacular diplomatic activity by Jewish 'notables' 
or groups or parties. They accused Herzl of a purely visionary faith 
in the possibility of a miraculous transformation overnight of the old, 
withered Jewish nation into a young and beautiful political state by 
the mere waving of a magic wand by emperors or millionaires. They 
insisted on the slow and painful but, as it seemed to them, indis- 
pensable process of education and cultural work. The fact that 
Herzl was an exotic figure, remote from the pious Jews of Eastern 
Europe, coming to them like a Messiah from another world, raised 
high above the heads of his followers, indeed his very appearance 
and voice and bearing, created a wave of exalted emotion amongst 
the Jewish masses. Weizmann and his friends, ironical and sophisti- 
cated as they were, despite their reservations welcomed Herzl's 
campaign and central ideas with enthusiasm. When in 1898 
Weizmann migrated from Berlin to the University of Fribourg in 
Switzerland, he, like his Berlin friends, was a convinced Herzlian 
Zionist. 

Weizmann did not attend the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 
1897. He was at this time plunged in his chemical researches, and 
had indeed made a valuable industrial discovery (for which he took 
out a patent that enabled him to continue with his work). But the 
main reason for his failure to go was most probably his poverty; his 
father is reported to have offered him his fare to Basle, but his own 
circumstances were such that his son could not bring himself to 
accept this sacrifice. In 1898 he attended the Second Zionist Con- 
gress as a delegate. In January 1899 he obtained his doctorate in 
Fribourg with two short chemical dissertations. He sold yet another 
invention to the great German chemical firm of Bayer, and felt 
financially a little more at ease. In 1901 he went to Geneva where he 
became assistant to Professor Bystrzycki, then a demonstrator in 
Professor Karl Graebe's laboratory. 

His life was, as before, divided between science and Zionist 
activity. He was in constant correspondence with his friends Leo 
Motzkin, Shmarya Levin, Esther Shneyerson, Berthold Feiwel, 
Martin Buber, Victor Yakobson, Abraham Idelson, Joshua Buch- 
mihl, Sofia Getzeva, Zvi Aberson and many others. He recognized 
Herzl as his leader, but had strong doubts about the possibility of 
achieving a Jewish state or autonomous region by a fiat 'from 



24 1874-1952 

above', by a political act of recognition solemnly entered into by the 
great Powers, or by a Charter on the lines of those of the East India 
or South Africa companies. He distrusted any political short cut 
which omitted or played down the need for a mass movement from 
below, and insisted on the need for the growth, necessarily gradual, 
of a widespread consciousness among the Jewish masses of their 
needs and capacities for collective action, in the first place for prac- 
tical work in creating an agricultural and industrial base in Palestine 
itself. Unless this was done the granting of constitutions or the estab- 
lishment of a political entity would, in the view of Weizmann and 
his friends, remain mere empty shells, which would merely expose 
Jewish inability to make use of them, and so tragically demonstrate 
their unreadiness to establish an independent community. Weizmann 
did not minimize the need for political action: but the tension be- 
tween the essentially political Herzl (and later for similar reasons, 
Jabotinsky) who believed in the primacy of action on an inter- 
national scale and the creation of public institutions for the Jewish 
people, as against those who emphasized the need to develop Jewish 
social, economic and cultural activities, especially of agriculture and 
education, as a base on which alone a political structure could be 
built action for the people versus action by the people remained 
a constant source of difference between Weizmann and the Herz- 
lians. There were differences of temperament too. With their 
ironical, somewhat irreverent attitude, Weizmann and his friends 
tended to question the value of HerzPs passionate insistence on forms 
and ceremony in the conduct of the movement. Congresses con- 
ducted with appropriate solemnity and discipline, the lofty style in 
which Herzl spoke and addressed sovereigns and nations these were 
his antidotes to the squalor and Schlamperei, the chaos, self- 
contempt and lack of dignity in Jewish life. Later Weizmann himself 
attached much importance to this, although at heart he remained 
incurably democratic and addicted to informal methods and habits. 
Herzl to him remained always a man of dazzling genius, a prophet 
consumed by a vision, but a figure who bound his spell on his fellows 
from a distance, a civilized Westerner out of touch with the temper 
and outlook and feelings of the Jewish masses of which Weizmann 
all his life retained an instinctive understanding. 

In 1901 at a meeting in Basle, before the Fifth Zionist Congress, 
he and his friends, Zvi Aberson, Martin Buber, Berthold Feiwel, Leo 
Motzkin and Kogan Bernstein, created the 'Democratic Fraction 3 
within the Zionist movement. This was to be a e loyal opposition'. 
Its members believed in responsiveness to the moods of the masses, 
emphasis on the cultural, educational and colonizing activity; they 



1874-1952 25 

were sceptical about the effectiveness of elites of dedicated leaders 
engaged in negotiating with European statesmen high over the heads 
of the people itself; they believed in empiricism, disbelieved in 
general principles and final solutions, distrusted all forms of rigidity 
and fanaticism, and wished to keep equally clear of rabbinical tradi- 
tionalism on the one hand, and of purely secular and western politi- 
cal forms on the other. 

Since this was his general approach, it is not, perhaps, surprising 
that Weizmann, like Ahad Ha 5 am, conceived a profound admiration 
for England, as the home of slowly growing constitutional liberties, 
of respect for tradition and precedent, of capacity for practical action, 
of adaptability, moderation and instinctive realism, as against the 
metaphysical romanticism of the Germans, or the addiction to abso- 
lute principles and abstract ideas of the French. Weizmann's outlook 
became formed early in his life, and its fundamentals never seriously 
altered. For him Judaism was not solely a religion or a culture or 
a race, but a nation; a unique compound of common civilization 
and common historical memories, in which the religious and the 
secular were inextricably interwoven, of common language, outlook 
and racial kinship, which it was misleading to classify in terms of 
criteria intended to fit modern, territorially defined nations. He 
believed in Jewish nationhood all the more easily because the Jewish 
community from which he himself sprang was, by historical circum- 
stance, geographically welded together into a culturally and ethni- 
cally distinct group, inhabiting a more or less continuous area in 
Western and Southern Russia, in which it formed a self-conscious 
national minority, forcibly made aware of its sharp differences from 
the surrounding Russian and Polish populations. He believed, more- 
over, that to deny this fact to believe, as some highly intelligent 
Western Jews were inclined to do, that the Jews were or could col- 
lectively become entirely and utterly German, French, English, dif- 
ferent from their fellow-citizens only in religious belief, as the Protes- 
tants, say, differed from Catholics, or Quakers from Anglicans, was 
a profound and fatal illusion which the rest of the world did not 
entertain, and from which, from time to time, it brutally awoke the 
Jews by treating them as a foreign body whether with conscious 
toleration born of liberal principles, or with indifference, or with 
fear or hatred (to which, as Pinsker had pointed out, nationally self- 
conscious, civilized nations were even more prone than less self- 
conscious, barbarous ones) that took the form of persecution and 
occasional massacre. Zionism for Weizmann as for Herzl meant the 
need for a conscious effort on the part of the Jews to become aware 
of their situation and act accordingly, that is to say, cease to 



s6 1874-1952 

struggle against their historically conditioned national personality 
(which was not, in itself, either superior or inferior to any other), but 
was what it was and not another thing; for unless they were allowed 
to live and think as Jews in the only conditions in which this was 
possible as a free nation settled on its own territory, they would 
continue to poison their own lives and those of others, as all those 
must who live a conscious or unconscious lie. He accepted the fact that 
some dramatic act was needed to make a sufficient impact upon both 
Jews and Gentiles to set up the process of emancipation. Herzl, in 
his view, partly because he was brought up outside traditional 
Judaism and did not therefore appreciate the violent psychological 
resistance to his ideas that the spiritual alienation' of the Jews 
would generate, alone possessed the burning, single-minded vision, 
unhampered by too much worldly realism, to administer the re- 
quired shock capable of rousing the people from the fantasies that it 
took for reality or even happiness; at the same time, this act was not, 
by itself, enough; unless the Jewish nation, or a large portion of it, 
understood the causes of its predicament, the plethora of ineffective 
remedies that were constantly offered it from all quarters Messianic 
faith, self-protective separatism, the march of enlightenment, social- 
ism, revolutionary or evolutionary, liberal internationalism, assimila- 
tion and so forth, would continue to distract it. He did not, like the 
Marxists, believe that the revolutionary transformation of social or 
economic conditions, even if it was feasible, would of itself solve the 
Jewish question. He thought this too crude an approach to a prob- 
lem that was at least as much psychological and historical as socio- 
logical or economic. He was not an irrationalist. In his scientific 
activity as in his life he believed in the power of reason, knowledge, 
understanding, judgment, practice founded on observation and 
good sense; but with Ahad Ha'am, he believed that a nation can 
only be led along its own historical path of development, in line with 
the outlook and values which spring from its own unique tradition, 
ways of life, sacred books and historical experience. In this respect 
his views were close to those of the leaders of other oppressed national 
groups in Europe, especially to the ideas and temper of those demo- 
cratic nationalists who had fought for Italian, Polish and Southern 
Slav liberty in the nineteenth century. 

Switzerland at this time contained a good many students from the 
Russian Empire unable or unwilling to be educated in the universi- 
ties of the Tsarist regime. The majority of these were Jews, to whom 
the doors of Russian universities were all but closed. The leaders of 
the young Russian Social Democratic party men like Plekhanov, 
Lenin, Martov, Helphand and particularly of its Jewish Bundist 



1874-1952 *7 

section, looked for recruits among the radical Russian Jewish 
students in Western universities. So, too, did the Zionists. Fierce 
disputes broke out between these rival fishers of souls both in private 
and in public. There is good evidence that Weizmann was in- 
volved in a public debate with the most brilliant of all the Russian 
socialists, Plekhanov; it is less likely that he met either Lenin or 
Trotsky. His principal opponents were the Jewish Socialists of the 
Bund, Medem and others, who had opposed Herzl, and with whom 
Weizmann came into conflict in Geneva, Berne and elsewhere. All 
his energies at this time went into the creation of groups of Zionist 
students and their sympathizers in Switzerland, Germany and 
neighbouring lands. Herzl was the inspired leader, seeking interviews 
with the Kaiser and the Sultan, in an endless effort to obtain 
internationally recognized rights for the Jews to create a national 
home in the Turkish province of Palestine. Weizmann and his friends 
were mainly concerned with creating cadres of young men who 
would speak in their own language to Jews everywhere, but particu- 
larly in Eastern Europe whence the immigrants would surely come. 

In 1903 public recognition at last came to the Zionist movement. 
The British Foreign Office, whose head was Lord Lansdowne, made 
a tentative approach to the Zionist leaders in England with regard to 
the Jewish colonization of a portion of the East African Protectorate 
in the territory of Guas Nigishu-Platan, 5,000 square miles in extent. 
This proposal, the initiative for which came from the British Colonial 
Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, was for the Zionists a cardinal event. 
It was the first time that the Jews had been recognized as a national 
entity by a great sovereign state indeed, the most powerful in the 
Western world. Earlier efforts to obtain a territory in British Cyprus, 
or in El-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, to which the Turks could offer 
less resistance had come to nothing. 

The Zionist movement was upset and excited. The proposed terri- 
tory, commonly, if incorrectly, referred to as Uganda, was not Pales- 
tine; but it was a concrete offer. A great debate broke out at the Zionist 
Congress. Herzl was inclined to accept the proposal as at any rate 
the first stage in the great Return. Others, for the most part Russian 
Zionists, were dead against this scheme: Zionism without Zion had 
no meaning for them. It was to be brought back to Zion that Jews 
prayed thrice daily. It was only Jerusalem that could create and 
justify the vast uprooting that the new life involved. At first Weiz- 
mann vacillated; his father, himself a delegate to the Congress, voted 
for accepting the British offer; the Russian delegation, like the 
others, was divided. In the end Weizmann came down decisively 
on the side of the anti-Ugandists : it must be Zion or nothing. Herzl 



28 1874-1952 

had not originally specified the territory in which the state was to be 
founded: Palestine was the goal: but perhaps East Africa would 
provide the beginning of statehood a Nachtasyl as Nordau had 
called it on the road to Zion. When the delegates from Kishinev, 
where in the previous year the worst of all Jewish pogroms had 
broken out, voted against Uganda, Herzl realized what Zionism 
meant to most of his European followers: * These people have ropes 
round their necks, and yet they refuse!' he said. He understood the 
point of view of Ussishkin and the other intransigents who wanted 
no temporary solutions nor the slightest deviation from the road that 
led to Palestine alone, and ceased to press for the acceptance of the 
miraculous British offer. 

In 1904 Herzl died. The movement chose as its head his follower, 
David Wolff ssohn, a Cologne banker of Russian origin, an honour- 
able and devoted but somewhat colourless figure. Weizmann and his 
followers had, since 1899, turned their attention towards such un- 
political tasks as the organization of a bank to finance colonization 
into Palestine; propaganda and education, principally among young 
Russian- Jewish intellectuals; and, more particularly (since 1902) to 
the foundation of a Jewish university, to act as a national centre of 
Jewish culture, learning and education. Weizmann wished to create 
it in Jerusalem; but was prepared to compromise and set it up else- 
where, if the Turkish authorities proved too obdurately hostile. In 
1906 he married Vera Ghatzmann, a medical student from Rostov on 
the Don in Russia, whom he had met in Geneva, and with whom he 
had shared his hopes and anxieties since 1901. His work as a bio- 
chemist occupied most of his time. In Geneva the prospect of 
academic advancement seemed dim. When a post in the University of 
Manchester fell vacant, he applied for it, and was appointed. He 
was attracted by the prospect of life in England. His anglophile 
feeling became a central strand in his life and was destined to 
play a major part in his triumphs and defeats. His wife took 
a second medical examination in England in order to qualify to 
practise as a health officer of the Manchester municipality. At the 
time of his arrival in England he was thirty years old. For the next 
ten years he was to be a prominent, but not central figure in the 
Zionist movement. He was out of sympathy with the faithful 
Herzlians who still dominated it: he did not belittle the importance 
of public diplomacy: but he believed that practical work in Palestine 
and the education of the Jews in the Diaspora mattered more. He 
found some degree of moral compensation for his political frustra- 
tion, then and in later years, in the laboratory: scientific papers 
flowed from his pen in a steady stream. In Manchester he met and 



1874-1952 29 

deeply influenced young men with Zionist inclinations who were 
destined to play a part in Zionist history Simon Marks, Israel Sieff , 
Harry Sacher (then on the staff of the Manchester Guardian),, and 
their friends and allies in London, notably Leon Simon, Samuel 
Landman and Leonard Stein with whom he was to collaborate fruit- 
fully in later years. 

The aftermath of the abortive Russian revolution of 1905 led to a 
new wave of pogroms in Russia which sent several thousand new 
Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Weizmann continued on his middle 
path: political pressure must continue, but unless it was backed by a 
constant effort of colonization, it would not avail c lf the Govern- 
ments give us a Charter today,' he argued at the Eighth Congress 
held in the Hague in 1907, c it will be a scrap of paper. Not so if we 
work in Palestine; then it will be written and indissolubly cemented 
with our blood.' 1 This doctrine the chemical mixture of 'political' 
and 'practical' Zionism came to be called 'synthetic Zionism'. Not 
all his friends accepted it. Motzkin aligned himself with the more 
purely political followers of Wolffsohn. Hot debates broke out 
between the factions. 

In the same year, shortly after the birth of his eldest son Benjamin, 2 
Weizmann visited Palestine for the first time, and returned more 
convinced than ever of the importance of practical work as against 
purely diplomatic pressure upon the governments of Europe. These 
governments did not respond; the Turks proved deaf to all Zionist 
blandishments; hopes revived after the Young Turk revolution, but 
the successors of Abdul Hamid proved even more suspicious and un- 
welcoming than the old tyrant. The British government seemed to 
have lost interest in Zionist aspirations. Neither Germany (despite 
Herzl's efforts to interest Kaiser Wilhelm II) nor France had shown 
real interest. The years immediately preceding the first World War 
remained an arid chapter in the history of Zionism. Many were dis- 
couraged. The mockery of the orthodox Jews to whom Zionism was a 
blasphemous attempt to forestall the Messiah, and the hostility of 
the cultivated and prosperous liberal Jews of the West, who looked 
on Zionism as a dangerous attempt to fire the Jews with an 
artificially fanned chauvinism likely to compromise their relations 
with their fellow-citizens of other faiths, harassed the Zionist move- 
ment on both flanks. By 1911 the sheer impotence of Zionist 
diplomacy finally won the 'practicals' a majority at the Tenth Zionist 
Congress. In this year Wolffsohn resigned from his office, which was 
put in the hands of a Commission headed by Professor Otto War- 

*Chaim Weizmann, ed. P. Goodman (Gollancz, London, 1945), pp. 147-8. 
*His second son Michael was born in 1915. 



30 1874^1952 

burg. This seemed to mark a detente between the two trends within 
Zionism. The powerful philanthropic Jewish bodies the Anglo- 
Jewish Association, the Jewish Board of Deputies in England, the 
French Alliance Israelite, the Centralverein of the German Jews, 
the most influential American committees shied violently from 
political Zionism. 

In 1913 Weizmann was involved in a characteristic conflict with 
the Hilfsverein (of the German Jews) which had materially helped 
in the foundation and organization of the new Jewish Technical 
School in Haifa, which it financed. Led by Paul Nathan, the Verein 
wanted the language of instruction in 'technical* subjects to be 
German- partly, perhaps, in order to strengthen German influence 
in the Middle East as against that of the French Alliance. Weizmann 
and his friends conceded that Hebrew did not as yet possess a techni- 
cal vocabulary adequate for the natural sciences therefore German 
might, in the beginning, have to be used; but maintained that to give 
German a status equal to that of Hebrew as the language of instruc- 
tion would be fatal to the central purpose of the entire movement 
the revival of Judaism as a modern civilization. A culture could only 
flourish through the medium of its own language; for thoughts and 
feelings and words are inextricably interwoven, and all languages 
but Hebrew were to some degree foreign importations, vehicles and 
symptoms of imitation and assimilation the deadly enemies of 
Jewish survival. Among the leading Jews only Baron Edmond de 
Rothschild of Paris, defying the opinions of most of the rest of his 
family, showed no hostility to Zionism, and quietly and effectively 
continued to found and support colonies in Palestine. In later years 
he is said to have remarked that without him political Zionism might 
never have been born; but that without Zionism his work would 
have been dead. 

Weizmann continued, under Professor William Perkin the younger, 
with his chemical work in Manchester and duly became University 
Reader in bio-chemistry. He felt that he deserved a higher post, but 
when the professorship fell vacant, he was passed over. Late in 1905 
he met the British Prime Minister, Mr A. J. Balfour, in Manchester, 
and expounded Zionism to him. Balfour, a connoisseur of individuals 
and ideas, was impressed by the man even more than by his theses : 
at the time he thought the latter no more than interesting. He re- 
membered the meeting in later years. The influence of his ideas upon 
English Zionists was not great; such prominent figures as Joseph 
Cowen and Leopold Greenberg (editor of the London Jewish 
Chronicle) were not impressed by Weizmann's central themes: that 
the Hebrew University, as he declared in Vienna in 1913, was to be 



1874-1952 3 1 

the Jewish 'dreadnought 3 , more powerful than the fortunes of the 
millionaires; or that to have industrial and agricultural workers in 
Palestine { is for us the law and the prophets', filites of intellectuals 
and technical experts, he said over and over again, would not create 
a Jewish national home. In 1914 Wolff sohn died. The Zionist move- 
ment still had no President. Weizmann was now forty or forty-one 
years of age. His position in the Zionist movement was not a com- 
manding one. He was a member of the Larger Actions Committee, a 
member and later president of the Standing Committee of the 
Congress, an acute and prominent critic of the Zionist establishment, 
and no more. The outbreak of the first World War transformed the 
situation. 

When hostilities broke out, the Zionist Executive, located in Berlin, 
decided to send Nahum Sokolow to England : Weizmann was evidently 
not considered senior enough to take charge of the movement there. 
Occasionally Yekhiel Tchlenov visited London from Moscow for the 
same purpose. Nevertheless Weizmann, who felt at home in England 
and was encouraged by his friend and mentor Ahad Ha'am, decided 
to exploit the new situation independently. The English Zionists of 
whom he saw most, were Joseph Cowen, Herbert Bentwich, Moses 
Gaster (the Haharn of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congrega- 
tion), Harry Sacher, James de Rothschild, Leon Simon, Dr Tolkov- 
sky. The gifted, energetic and eloquent Vladimir Jabotinsky had also 
arrived in London, intent on forming a Jewish legion to fight on the 
Allied side; he was an intimate friend of Weizmann and for a time 
they shared a flat in Chelsea in London. In the autumn of 1914, at 
the house of a common Manchester friend, Mrs Eckhard, Weizmann 
met C. P. Scott, the editor of the great Liberal journal, the Man- 
chester Guardian. Scott was a man of great political influence, a 
friend and adviser of cabinet ministers and in particular of David 
Lloyd George. The chance meeting with Scott proved a turning 
point in the history of the Zionist movement. Scott became a convert 
to Zionism and brought Weizmann and his ideas to the notice of 
prominent British politicians: in particular of Herbert Samuel and 
Lloyd George. Herbert Samuel, at that time head of the Local 
Government Board in Asquith's Liberal administration, and then, in 
succession, Postmaster General and Home Secretary in the same 
government, needed no convincing. He had, quite independently, 
conceived a warm sympathy for Zionism. Weizmann was greatly 
astonished to find a firm advocate of the idea of a full-fledged Jewish 
state in the British Cabinet in a man, moreover, who by origin and 
upbringing, belonged to the Anglo-Jewish elite which was in general 
far from friendly to Zionism. Once the Turks had entered the war on 



32 1874-1952 

the German side, the question of the disposal of the Ottoman empire 
became a matter of cardinal interest to the British Government. Early 
in the war Samuel addressed a memorandum to the Cabinet, advo- 
cating as one of the Allied war aims, the creation of a Jewish state in 
Palestine the term was loosely used after the defeat of the Turkish 
Empire. The Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, records that he was 
somewhat surprised by so romantic a proposal from the c well ordered 
and methodical brain of Herbert Samuel', and later remarked that 
evidently, as Disraeli had observed, 'race is everything'. He remained 
unimpressed and critical of the idea. Weizmann, mindful of his inter- 
view with Balfour ten years before, asked the Jewish philosopher, Pro- 
fessor Samuel Alexander, to reintroduce him to Balfour, and wrote 
to sound him out on Zionist aspirations. Balfour, not then in the 
Government, responded courteously: he said that Weizmann needed 
no introduction, since he remembered the earlier meeting, but did 
not commit himself. The proposal was, however, well received by 
the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey; Lloyd George approved 
from the beginning, on strategic as well as sentimental grounds. 
Samuel's proposal was consequently not discarded and engaged the 
intermittent attention of various British statesmen and officials during 
the first years of the war. At one point Grey sounded out the Russian 
and French Foreign Ministers along the lines of Samuel's memo- 
randum; the Russians showed no interest; the French before 1917 
remained equally non-committal. The indefatigable champion of the 
idea in the British Cabinet was Herbert Samuel throughout. Hope 
revived in Zionist circles that England was once more to be the 
champion of the Jewish cause the sponsor of that public act to the 
promotion of which Herzl had sacrificed his life. 

On the outbreak of war, Weizmann, in response to a Government 
circular, offered his discoveries in the field of fermentation to the 
British scientific authorities. He obtained no response. In 1916, when 
the prospects of war seemed dark for the Western allies, Weizmann's 
work was brought to the attention of the Brtish Government scien- 
tists by C. P. Scott and others. He was asked by Mr Winston 
Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, whether he could provide 
a process that would yield acetone, a solvent needed for producing 
naval munitions. He successfully accomplished this task. His work 
with the Admiralty laboratories took him away from Manchester to 
London. It absorbed his entire time, with the result that he resigned 
his university post and a new phase in his life began. 

His scientific achievement brought Weizmann to the notice of 
British government circles; and although his official position in the 
Zionist movement was still relatively subordinate, the singular force 



1874-1952 33 

of his personality, and his ability to charm and impress eminent 
Englishmen whose outlook and style of life he found deeply attrac- 
tive, helped to advance him to the foremost place in the ranks of 
Zionists in England. He had indeed no serious rivals there: Sokolov 
spent a good deal of time in France and Italy, countries with which 
he had a somewhat greater affinity; Tchlenov, Ussishkin and the 
other founding fathers of the movement found it difficult to leave 
Russia. The German Zionists stayed in their own country or in 
neutral states. Victor Yakobson was in distant Constantinople. The 
rise of England as the leading partner in the war-time alliance auto- 
matically lifted the relatively obscure Zionists of that country to a 
leading position, and Weizmann dominated them all by his political 
and diplomatic gifts and natural capacity for leadership. Lloyd 
George recalls that when he was asked what honour he desired as 
a reward for his scientific service to his adopted country, Weizmann 
replied that he wanted nothing for himself, only a country for his 
people. The story is probably apocryphal, and if the Balfour Declara- 
tion had no direct connection with Weizmann's scientific services, the 
mood in which the British offer was conceived clearly owed some- 
thing to Weizmann's personal position in the eyes of more than one 
British statesman. 

Late in 1916 Asquith resigned. Lloyd George became Premier, and 
Balfour Foreign Secretary: both had been strongly attracted by 
Zionist ideas; and in the meanwhile other forces were also at work. 
The desire to induce America to enter the war on their side was a 
major pre-occupation of the Western allies. American opinion on the 
war was divided, and among the pro-Germans and isolationists were 
to be counted prominent Jews; some among them were of German 
origin and emotionally inclined to German culture, others came from 
Russia and Poland, with bitter memories of Russian persecution, and 
were repelled by any form of alliance with the odious Tsarist regime. 
The support, or at any rate the neutralization, of American Jewish 
opinion was deemed of importance in Allied circles. The Russian 
Ambassador in Washington reported to his government that his 
French and British colleagues kept drawing his attention to the bad 
effect that the Russian treatment of her minorities was producing in 
America. The French government sent Victor Basch, a Jewish savant 
with Zionist sympathies, to attract American Jewish support. The 
notion that the American Jews might prove valuable allies, and that 
the British Zionists could engage their sympathies through their alli- 
ance with American Zionists, and especially with the influential 
Justice Brandeis, began to gain support in British political circles. Sir 
Mark Sykes, who had in December 1916 been appointed one of the 



34 1874-1952 

Under Secretaries of the newly formed British War Cabinet, had 
sought information about Zionism from Herbert Samuel's friend the 
Haham Moses Gaster. He met Weizmann at Caster's house (possibly 
through the offices of a London Armenian called James Malcolm who 
later claimed to have effected the encounter). Sykes, a fervent and 
romantic Roman Catholic and an expert on the Middle East, who 
had recently concluded the secret agreement with the French about 
the post-war division of ex-Turkish territories (known as the Sykes- 
Picot Agreement), was fascinated by Zionism, and became one of its 
ardent advocates before the Cabinet; Weizmann and Sokolow, whom 
he had again met in Caster's house, became his friends and allies. 
Lloyd George and Balfour were favourable, the Under-Secretary of 
Foreign Affairs, Lord Robert Cecil, had been earlier converted by 
Weizmann; so, by now, were Milner and Amery, into whose liberal 
imperialist dream (not altogether shared by Balfour) the prospect 
of a settlement 'of loyal anglophile Jews at a strategic point of the 
route to India wholly fitted. Rumours, by no means without foun- 
dation, that the Germans might forestall the Allies by arranging for a 
similar off er to be made to the Jews by the Turks, acted as an added 
stimulus to action. It was rumoured that the British Jews were against 
this proposal; feelers were put out among their leaders. For the most 
part, they were not unfriendly. One of the most prominent, Lord 
Rothschild, declared himself to be, like his younger brother Charles, a 
Zionist. His relative, James de Rothschild, an army officer, son of the 
Baron Edmond, had long been a supporter. Samuel, of course, sup- 
ported the scheme vigorously, although, loyal to Asquith, he had re- 
signed from the Government. But Zionism had violent enemies among 
the British Jews. Mr Edwin Montagu, soon to be Secretary for India, 
was outraged by the very idea of a Jewish nationality. It seemed to 
him to cast doubts on the rights of Jews to consider themselves full 
Englishmen; 'You are being misled by a foreigner,' he said to Lloyd 
George. Similar views were held by Claude Montefiore and other 
prominent members of the Anglo-Jewish establishment. There was 
hostility in corresponding circles in France. The idea was canvassed 
widely enough to stimulate a letter in The Times in the early 
summer of 1917, signed by D. L. Alexander and Claude Montefiore, 
the chairmen of the Conjoint Foreign Committee of the Jewish 
Board Deputies and the Anglo- Jewish Association, expressing hos- 
tility to the idea of a national Jewish entity in Palestine, on the 
grounds that it might involve the Jews in antagonism with the Arab 
natives of Palestine, and create the problem of divided allegiance for 
loyal Jews in the countries of which they are citizens. The prin- 
cipal figure behind this protest was Lucien Wolf, an old enemy of 



1874-1952 35 

Zionism. A reply to this letter appeared over the signature of Lord 
Rothschild; and although the original remonstrance may have 
affected the ultimate wording of the British Government's proposal 
(known as the Balfour Declaration) it was not sufficient to kill it. The 
draft of the proposal to invite the Jews to create a national home 
in Palestine went through many versions, and led to much con- 
flict within and without the Jewish community. An almost equally 
controversial issue was that of the Jewish Legion: supported by 
Jabotinsky and Weizmann, it frightened not only anti-Zionist 
Jews, but Zionist leaders who feared its effect on the Jews of Turkey 
and Palestine and the Central Powers. There was much dispute and 
recrimination in the English Zionist Federation. Head of English 
Zionism as he had become, and at the height of his powers, with 
an ever-growing reputation and prestige, Weizmann felt that he was 
not obtaining the support that he deserved. He encountered, too, 
repeated obstacles in his work as an Admiralty scientist; he felt exces- 
sively frustrated; early in 1917 he wrote to Sokolov resigning his 
official post as the head of the English Zionist Federation. He there- 
upon received a letter from Ahad Ha' am telling him that he did not 
owe his unique position of moral and political leadership to formal 
election by any body of men; that there was therefore no one to whom 
he could properly resign; events, his own genius, but above all the 
historic goals and claims of the Jewish nation laid upon him a task and 
an obligation given to no other man in modern times ; it was morally in- 
conceivable that he should seek to leave his post. Weizmann remained. 
He was the unchallenged leader of the movement; he marshalled his 
forces, Jewish and Gentile, against the Jewish anti-Zionists; he was 
consulted at every turn by British politicians and officials who had 
begun to draft the document which was to become the Declaration, 
and worked diligently to give undivided rule over Palestine to England 
alone, since he feared divided rule such as was contemplated by the 
Sykes-Picot Agreement. Balfour was deeply impressed by the argu- 
ments of Brandeis during his visit to America, and he and Robert Cecil 
remained Weizmann's firmest allies within the British Cabinet; C. P. 
Scott was a tower of strength in the larger political world outside. 
Another factor may also have played a part in forcing a decision. In 
the autumn of 1 9 17 the situation in Russia, both political and military, 
was, from the point of view of the Western Alliance, deteriorating 
rapidly. A move likely to increase sympathy for the Allies not 
only among American Jews, but among the five million Jews in the 
Russian Empire, was deemed valuable in London. Exchanges of drafts 
between Zionist leaders and the Cabinet draftsmen took place. Edwin 
Montagu, who had rejoined the Cabinet, fought hard against this 



3 6 1874-1952 

policy, in part because as Secretary for India he feared its effect upon 
the Moslems under British rule, 

In the midst of these concerns Weizmann was suddenly sent on an 
abortive sea voyage. In 1917 the elder Henry Morgenthau, who had 
recently ceased to be US Ambassador in Turkey, conceived a plan for 
inducing the Turks to make a separate peace. Since his scheme 
involved the possibility of Jewish settlement in Palestine, Weiz- 
mann was sent to Gibraltar by the British Government to confer 
with Morgenthau and Professor Felix Frankfurter as American 
representatives. The meeting in Gibraltar came to nothing; the Turks 
remained in the war, and the identification of Zionism with the 
Allied cause inevitably made the position of Palestinian and Turkish 
Jews perilous, and at times tragic. Meanwhile developments in the 
Zionist world rose to a climax. On 2 November 1917 a letter was 
finally published, addressed by Mr Balfour, as Foreign Secretary, to 
Lord Rothschild, declaring that 'His Majesty's Government view 
with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the 
Jewish people.' 1 This cardinal act was universally regarded, though 
its architects were many, as a personal triumph for Weizmann. From 
that moment his position among the Jews, in virtue of the regard 
evidently paid him by the rulers and people of Great Britain, itself 
became dominant. It was to him that Sir Mark Sykes, emerging 
from the Cabinet meeting which had finally adopted the Balfour 
Declaration (a document largely drafted by Milner) announced 
the momentous news. His name became indissolubly linked with 
this, the greatest event in Jewish history since the destruction of 
Judaea. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets proclaiming the Declara- 
tion were showered upon the Jews in Germany, Austria-Hungary 
and, above all, Russia. Weizmann had formally welcomed the Revo- 
lution that had broken out in Russia, in March in the same year, 
explaining that it was not to persecution alone that Zionism looked 
for its chief stimulus, for it was a positive movement, and did not seek 
to thrive on injustice. The Bolshevik Revolution occurred five days 
after the publication of the Balfour Declaration; but the majority of 
the Jews in Russia who came to hear of it were, understandably, more 
deeply moved by the former event. Weizmann's mother, attending 

*The relevant text runs as follows: 'His Majesty's Government view with 
favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish 
people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the establishment of 
this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 
prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non- Jewish communities in 
Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other 
country.' 



1874-1952 37 

a Zionist meeting in Russia, received an ovation, and was blessed as 
one who had given birth to the Emancipator. 

Weizmann's position had risen to new height, and he accepted the 
power and prestige which he had gained, as his birthright. In a sense, 
his role was anomalous. What Ahad Ha'am had said in the letter 
mentioned above, was true enough: Weizmann had risen to his pre- 
eminent position through no act of democratic selection. Some 
among the other leaders, who had naturally looked upon themselves 
as the duly appointed heads of the movement, looked with incredulity 
not unmixed with a certain indignation on Weizmann's new and 
undisputed status. He was not even a member of the Zionist execu- 
tive. But his position, largely owing to his personal qualities, had 
become unassailable. He had become clearly the greatest figure in 
the public life of the Jews since the death of Herzl, and was recog- 
nized as such by Zionists and non-Zionists, Jews and Gentiles, from 
the day on which he boldly linked the fortunes of the movement with 
British policy. In 1918 he headed the Zionist Commission sent to 
Palestine, then being conquered by Allenby's troops, to advise on the 
future settlement, and effect the liaison between the Jews of Palestine 
and the British authorities. Before he left he was received by King 
George V, and came armed with high hopes. He had an affecting 
meeting with his old friend Jabotinsky in Cairo, and then, flanked by 
Majors James de Rothschild and William Ormsby Gore as British 
liaison officers, and with some of his old Manchester friends 1 as 
members of his Commission, he arrived in Palestine to be met with 
scepticism and suspicion sometimes amounting to hostility on the part 
of powerful figures among the British military representatives. The 
conqueror of Palestine, Field Marshal Allenby, was himself not un- 
sympathetic. The Jews in Palestine, after suffering indignities and per- 
secution at the hands of the Turks, were nervous and bewildered. The 
Arab and Christian communities were uncertain and suspicious. On 
British advice Weizmann made his way to the other side of the Jordan 
to meet the Emir Feisal, one of the leaders of the Arab revolt, son 
of the Sherif Hussein of Mecca, to whom the British had made 
promises of Arab independence. The Emir met him with gifts in the 
desert, and in his camp near Akaba assured him of his sympathy. 
In a letter written in January 1919, when they met in London, he 
expressed the wish that Jews and Arabs should co-operate in the 
development of Palestine and of the Arab States. He was later quoted 
in the press as expressing the opposite sentiments. Later still, in a 
letter sent to Professor Frankfurter during the Versailles Conference, 
he returned to his original position: Jewish settlement, Feisal 

1 As well as representatives of other Allied Powers. 



3 8 1874-1952 

declared, was an expression of a national need, as the Arab move- 
ment also was, and not one of foreign colonization or imperialism; he 
would respect and welcome it; as in the earlier letter to Weizmann 
he rested his pledge on one condition that the pledges given him 
and his father by the Western powers were fully honoured. They were 
not. He was himself driven from the throne of Syria; his father and 
brother were expelled by Ibn Saud from Mecca and the Hedjaz; and 
although he became King of Iraq, he thenceforward regarded the 
original agreement and therefore, presumably also its pro-Zionist 
corollary, as having been rendered void by the treachery of the West. 
But all that still lay in the future. 

In 1918, before the end of hostilities, Weizmann solemnly laid the 
foundation stone of the Hebrew university of Jerusalem, 'in order 
that the Jewish soul which had been hovering between heaven and 
earth might here find an earthly habitation' and so the words of the 
prophets might be fulfilled. The fate of the university henceforth 
became one of his deepest concerns: its career was a source of 
alternate pride and anxiety to him until the day of his death. He 
remained sober in the midst of triumph. In May 1917 he had said 
'States must be built up slowly, gradually, systematically and 
patiently. We therefore say that the achievement of it [a Jewish 
Commonwealth] lies through a series of intermediary stages. 5 In an 
hour of joy and exultation in the entire Jewish world he dwelt on 
the difficult days to come. He said over and over again that only the 
people's own labour, slow, dedicated, organized, painful, not the 
inspiration of a moment, would create the framework of the Jewish 
national existence. The soil must be conquered by careful and 
agonizing effort; an unbelievable opportunity had been offered, and 
if the Jews of the world did not rise to it, the responsibility and shame 
would be theirs alone. There were dissentient voices. The veteran 
Max Nordau demanded mass immigration. He thought that for the 
Jews it was now or never; if they did not pour in in their hundreds 
of thousands, they would not again ever be offered the chance of 
fulfilment for their national needs. Jabotinsky, too, thought along 
similar lines. Weizmann did not think such forced marches feasible, 
and said so. From this moment the rift between him and those who 
demanded drastic political action and a swifter and more violent 
tempo, originally opened by the differences between his Erfullungs- 
politik and the c maximalism' of Herzl and his followers, began to 
widen. But Zionism was still united by the powerful opposition to it 
within Jewish ranks. In 1919 the Zionist Organization was invited to 
present its case to the Peace Conference at Versailles, before the 
Committee of Ten, composed for the most part of the Foreign Secre- 



1874-1952 39 

taries of the victorious Allies. Weizmann, Sokolov and Ussishkin spoke 
briefly before the Committee. A representative of the French Jews, 
Professor Sylvain Levi, an eminent orientalist, also spoke, and echoed 
the fears of the anti-Zionists, including the British Jews represented in 
Paris by Lucien Wolf. Levi spoke of Arab hostility, the dangers of 
divided allegiance among the Jews, and added a new point of his own 
about the possible effect of mass immigration into the Middle East by 
persons infected by the virus of revolutionary ideas from Eastern 
Europe. Weizmann could hardly contain himself: Levi's words 
seemed to him a desecration. But the American representatives, 
Wilson, Lansing, House, remained no less favourable to Zionism 
than their British counterparts, who, by now, included Smuts as well 
as Lloyd George, Balfour and Milner. Lansing asked him what he 
meant by 'National Home 9 ; he replied that it was hoped to 'build up 
gradually a nationality which would be as Jewish as the French 
nation was French, and the British nation British.' (This was later 
echoed by both Samuel and Balfour.) The Zionists won their case. 
Weizmann was duly congratulated by Balfour, and declined to accept 
Levi's prof erred hand, calling him a traitor to the Jewish cause. Lucien 
Wolf, in his turn, attempted to warn the allied negotiators, in particu- 
lar Lloyd George, through his secretary Philip Kerr (later Lord 
Lothian) of the dangers of Zionism, but with little effect. The Man- 
date for Palestine, given by the League of Nations (in accordance with 
Zionist hopes and wishes) to Great Britain, incorporated significant 
portions of the original Balfour Declaration. The Jewish National 
Home, and the special status of the Zionist Organization in connection 
with it, had been recognized by 'public law 5 . Herzl's dream had to 
that degree been fulfilled. True, the Mandate did not speak of Jewish 
'rights' to Palestine, only of 'historical connection'. This was a 
phrase probably inserted by Lord Curzon who succeeded Balfour as 
British Foreign Secretary; for (so Weizmann used to relate) he pointed 
out to him that while rights can be claimed, a connection cannot. 
'The temperature of this Office has dropped considerably,' Weizmann 
recollected saying to him, ' since the time of your predecessor.' 

Weizmann was now in undisputed control of the Zionist move- 
ment. He was the commander-in-chief in a war on two fronts: against 
opposition and indifference among the Jews and against opponents 
among Gentiles, principally in Britain and Palestine. His attitude 
towards the former remained unbending. He had said in an essay 
published during the war that 'the efforts of the emancipated Jew 
to assimilate himself to his surroundings . . . deceive nobody but him- 
self. From this he never moved, and he mocked and reviled those 
who disagreed. As for the latter, he had not long to wait. By 1920 



4 1874-1952 

Arab riots had broken out in Jerusalem. In 1921 Jabotinsky was 
arrested in Jaffa and placed in Acre prison. The local British adminis- 
tration could scarcely be described as co-operative or sympathetic, 
despite the appointment of Sir Herbert Samuel as First British High 
Commissioner. 

At the Zionist Conference held in that year, differences between 
Weizmann and his allies began to take concrete form. Justice Louis 
Brandeis, the most eminent of the American Zionists, believed in the 
necessity for organized economic action to create a solid foundation 
for Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine. He wanted a 
body vested with plenary powers for at any rate three years, backed 
by private, principally American, Jewish capital, capable of planning 
systematically, in order to avoid confusion and conflict. In the 
political field he opposed centralization: the national Zionist bodies 
were to form a loose federation, each autonomous in its own country: 
there was to be no world Zionist executive in supreme authority. 
Weizmann rejected both these policies. Despite his empiricism, 
his grasp of day-to-day material needs, his freedom from utopianism, 
he saw in these proposals a danger to the central principle of 
Zionism. The Jewish commonwealth must be built by the con- 
certed efforts of the entire people; too much emphasis on private 
capital as against the public funds created by the Zionists the 
Keren Kayemeth and the Keren Hayesod; too great a diminution in 
the power and status of the body representative of the national 
interest of the Jewish people the Zionist Organization, and the 
great design would decline into philanthropy, mere economic activity, 
and lose its democratic nature and political ideal. His constant em- 
phasis on the importance of the pioneers Chalutziuth sprang not 
merely from the natural tendency toward populism by which most 
Russian Zionists were affected to some degree, but from the belief 
that a community that is planned for by an lite of experts, however 
dedicated and efficient, cannot grow organically. He believed that a 
nation must build itself with all the errors and confusions that this 
may entail: things cannot, he maintained, be arranged from above: 
peoples cannot be developed like business enterprises or even colonies 
by the fiat of remote authorities elsewhere. Personal factors also 
played their part: Weizmann was not too tolerant of other leaders, 
and Brandeis was a great force; but more important was the genuine 
difference of principle and approach. 

Weizmann's constant pleas for more cultural autonomy and more 
education did not spring from any explicit system of values in 
which intellectual interests dominated over others. He was not 
greatly interested in general ideas, nor, for all his love of music, 



1874-1952 4 1 

in artistic activity as such. He was essentially not a theorist but an 
inventor and builder; he used opportunities as they came. But he 
possessed singular insight into the nature and value of intellectual and 
artistic creation, and an instinctive understanding of what makes 
societies and nations, in particular of the interplay between human 
and technological factors; and in virtue of this he became a states- 
man and negotiator of rare genius. Moreover, despite his under- 
standing and admiration for the West in which he had made his 
home, he remained to the end a native member of the Eastern 
European Jewish community, a Jew among Jews, who understood 
the Jewish masses, and in his own person thought, felt and suffered 
as they did, and knew out of his own experience what enhanced and 
what cramped their lives; and this alone gave him an incomparable 
advantage as a popular leader. He was a deeply impressive public 
speaker and a most fascinating talker, but not, like Nordau or 
Jabotinsky, a spell-binding orator; and tended, at times, to grow 
distant and self-absorbed. In politics he suffered neither fools nor 
equals gladly. He believed in his own judgment, he was bold, inde- 
pendent and, at times, deeply disdainful. Yet he remained a man 
of the people to the end, and was felt to be such by them not 
a convert to their cause, nor a figure from another world who had 
stretched his hand to help the brothers from whom he was emotionally 
or socially remote. 

In 1920 a Zionist Conference was held in London. It had revealed 
a widening gap between his position and the social and economic 
doctrines of the American decentralizes. At the American Zionist 
Convention held in Cleveland in the early summer of 1921, these 
differences led to an open breach. Brandeis, Frankfurter, Stephen 
Wise, Mack, Nathan Straus and others resigned. He was supported 
by a group of American Zionists led by Louis Lipsky, who defended 
him at the first post-war Zionist Congress, held in Carlsbad in Sep- 
tember 1921 where the 'American' position was argued by Julius 
Simon and de Lieme. * Evidently there is no bridge between Pinsk 
and Washington, 3 Weizmann had remarked some months before 
at a meeting held during his first American visit. He found it 
difficult to share the direction of affairs with others; Brandeis thought 
him overbearing and politically ruthless. He had, during his Ameri- 
can tour, established links both with the American Jewish masses and 
with some of the financial leaders of American Jewry, over the heads 
of the Brandeisists. This stood him in good stead when he created the 
expanded Jewish Agency in 1929. 

The Hebrew University had always been the apple of Weizxnann's 
eye. He tried to attract to it the greatest intellectual luminaries 



42 1874-1952 

among the Jews of the world. Einstein came, but left after a rela- 
tively short stay. Weizmann's relationship with Einstein, despite their 
deep mutual admiration for each other, remained ambivalent; Weiz- 
mann was inclined to regard Einstein as an unpractical idealist 
inclined to Utopian attitudes in politics. Einstein, in his turn, looked 
on Weizmann as too much of a Realpolitiker, and was irritated by 
his failure to press for reforms in the university away from what he 
regarded as an undesirable American collegiate pattern. Nevertheless 
they remained allies and friends to the end of their lives. In particular 
Einstein supported Weizmann's efforts to attract men of first-rate 
scientific ability to Palestine. 

There were periods in Weizmann's life when the pressure of public 
work caused him to abandon his scientific work. But he returned to it 
whenever he could, and sought and obtained much solace in it, parti- 
cularly when obstacles made political activity difficult. He belonged 
to the optimistic tradition of the enlightenment in his belief that the 
application of scientific method to life was both inevitable and desir- 
able, and threw the full weight of his authority and expertise behind 
the various industrial enterprises which rested on the application of 
scientific technology Rutenberg's electric station, the potash works 
on the Dead Sea, experiments in his beloved settlements. It was under 
his inspiration that his old Manchester friends, the Sieff-Marks family, 
endowed a scientific institute in Rehovoth in Palestine, that was 
opened in 1934. This later grew into the Institute that bears Weiz- 
mann's own name; he attracted first-rate scientists to it, and per- 
sonally guided it with characteristic breadth of vision. In it he spent 
what were, in his own view, the most satisfactory and productive 
months and years of his life. Nine years before, the Hebrew University 
in its new building on Mount Scopus was formally inaugurated by 
Lord Balfour, and Weizmann as its first president delivered an 
inaugural address. He did not, from the first, see eye to eye with its 
first head, the Chancellor Dr Judah L. Magnes, from whose political 
and academic views he strongly dissented; their differences grew 
greater with time. 

In 1921 he became President of the World Zionist Organization. 
His main work now lay in negotiation and administration. He had 
to conduct operations on three troubled fronts, Jewish, British and 
Arab. In the Zionist world, he occupied his customary central posi- 
tion; to the right of him stood Jabotinsky and his followers. 
Violently opposed to the decision made at the Cairo Conference in 
1921 whereby Trans- Jordan was removed from the original territory 
of Palestine, and by the subsequent White Paper issued a year 
later by Mr Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, which laid down that 



1874-1952 43 

Jewish immigration must be determined by 'economic absorptive 
capacity' and other limiting factors, the 'Revisionists' wanted, with 
the example of Ireland and colonial territories in mind, an out and out 
assault upon the mandatory power using every weapon of political 
pressure and resistance open to a minority. Weizmann believed this 
policy to be futile. He placed his faith from the beginning in the 
British connection both on grounds of sentiment, and because he 
believed in the community of Zionist and British interests. To his 
opponents on the extreme nationalist right this seemed a policy of 
weak compromise tantamount to treason. He had staked his political 
career on close collaboration with the British administration and 
remained faithful to this ideal for over twenty years. Weizmann was 
pragmatic and flexible in his means and methods, but his ends never 
altered : he remained unswerving in his pursuit of a free, self-governing 
Jewish commonwealth, preferably under British auspices, in Palestine. 
To the left of him he had opponents who pressed for a greater 
degree of immediate socialism in the Jewish settlement, criticized the 
'capitalist 9 methods of colonization and the Government's immigra- 
tion regulations which discriminated in favour of richer immi- 
grants, resented what seemed to them undue interference by the 
British mandatory government, the Zionist Organization and private 
economic agencies in the social and economic life of the Jewish 
colonies, and demanded a greater degree both of socialism and of 
autonomy. Both sides accused Weizmann of anglomania, and in 
particular of a tendency to appease and yield to his British friends. 
Weizmann was not a socialist: he professed no economic doctrine and 
declared himself unskilled in such matters ; by temperament he was 
inclined towards democratic and semi-socialist institutions. However 
autocratic he could at times be, he distrusted plutocracy, philan- 
thropic paternalism, oligarchy, and other forms of elitism. He saw 
the building up of Jewish Palestine as a collective effort carried 
through principally by agricultural and industrial workers in an 
egalitarian society. Equality and fraternity had deeply penetrated 
the life of common suffering in the Pale of Settlement whence most 
of the early immigrants, and he himself, had come; he recoiled 
against the hierarchies of the Western world as strongly as the immi- 
grants themselves. He felt some distaste for the Rothschild colonies 
with their tradition of patronage, although he recognized their unique 
historic services. He insisted on diverting Zionist funds to Moshavim 1 
and Kvutsoth, 2 even though he was not convinced that they were 
economically viable, and was often told that it was more rational to 

1 Settlements with individually owned land. 

2 Collective settlements. 



44 1874-1952 

support a greater degree of private enterprise. He loved best his visits 
to the settlements Nahalal, say, or Ein Harod his rapport with 
the settlers was intimate and happy, happier than his relations with 
some of the representatives of economic corporations from America 
or England. The colonists and members of Kibbutzim were among 
his most faithful admirers. His heart was with Eastern Europe and 
the poor, his brain with the superior resources and standards of 
Western capital and skill. 

As for the Arabs, he was, perhaps, over optimistic about the possi- 
bility of peaceful and harmonious relations with them. He insisted 
from the start that they must not be exploited. The Jews had come 
to live a national life, not to oppress others or create an Arab 
proletariat; he placed his hopes in the vast rise in the level of 
social and economic life which Jewish immigration would be bound 
to bring to the Arabs of Palestine; he underestimated the counter- 
vailing force of Arab nationalism, fed by a mounting resentment of 
the influx of foreigners who came to settle 'as of right and not on 
sufferance 5 . Consequently he had no discernible Arab policy a fact 
which his opponents were not slow to point out. 

As for the occupying Power, his anglophile feeling seemed to the 
more critical among his followers to blind him to the British Colonial 
officials 3 frequent distaste for the Jews and their moral doubts about 
their own task under the Mandate. For all his anger with its short- 
comings, Weizmann made the British connection the basis of his 
entire policy. When, in the end, he became convinced that he 
had been betrayed by Britain, this was the deepest wound, and, 
indeed, the central tragedy, of his life. It was with the British that his 
principal business lay. Patiently and persistently, during the twenties, 
he pressed the Colonial Office for more and more certificates for 
immigrants, and for land which the Jewish National Fund did not 
itself have the resources to purchase. He was condemned to perpetual 
frustration. Since the first flush of war-time enthusiasm, successive 
British governments inclined to considering the Zionist adventure 
a piece of romantic folly which was costing the British Government 
far too dear in the terms of Arab goodwill. The Foreign Office, 
especially, came to regard the promises to the Jews as morally inde- 
fensible and politically embarrassing. It is doubtful whether others 
could have obtained more from a government and officials steeped 
in this outlook. About this opinions will probably always differ. 

Weizmann's relations with successive High Commissioners naturally 
varied greatly: even when he was most critical of his policies, he re- 
tained much respect and admiration for the first Jewish governor of 
Palestine since Nehemiah Sir Herbert Samuel, This feeling was fully 



1874-1952 45 

reciprocated and grew stronger with the years. He was, however, 
happiest in his relations with the three soldiers among the High 
Commissioners: Lord Plumer, Sir Arthur Wauchope and Sir Alan 
Cunningham. He found men of simple, resolute and open nature 
easiest to deal with. 

The scale of both financial contributions and immigration provided 
by the Jewish world in the mid-twenties fell far short of Zionist 
expectations and the economic situation in the Jewish settlement 
often grew critical. For these reasons and also because he had 
always conceived of the entire enterprise as one undertaken by the 
entire Jewish people and not merely by a party within it, Weizmann 
worked fervently for an expansion of the Zionist Organization to 
cover as great a sector of Jewry as possible. The greatest blow to these 
hopes was the disappearance of the great Russian Jewish community 
of more than three millions behind the Soviet Curtain. Mass immi- 
gration from the West had never seemed to Weizmann a concrete 
prospect. In 1929 his wish was at last partially fulfilled. An expanded 
Jewish Agency was formed, against criticism by both the right and left 
wings of the Zionist movement, with the adhesion of Louis Marshall 
and Felix Warburg in the United States, and other non-Zionist 
sympathizers in many lands, who were to form fifty per cent of 
the central body with which the British Government formally dealt 
in all matters concerning the Jewish national home. Weizmann 
became the head of the new organization. He had now attained to the 
highest formal position in the Jewish world, a modern Exilarch, Rosh 
Hagolah, leading his people back to their ancient home. His figure 
inspired profound respect and interest throughout the world. He had, 
after the War, established his headquarters in London; his gifted wife 
and he entertained widely; his circle of acquaintance grew large and 
varied : it included some of the most eminent, remarkable and influ- 
ential figures in British social and public life. To some of his old 
followers he seemed altogether too grand, remote and inaccessible. 
These were years of peace, and slow, gradual, difficult, unspectacular 
achievement. His influence in government circles rose and fell, but 
was never negligible. There was no doubt of his unique status and 
reputation ; although he represented a relatively small group of human 
beings, and little financial power, the force of his personality was 
such that he created an illusion, to which the leaders of the Western 
world willingly succumbed, of representing not only a people but a 
state, of being the prime minister of a government in exile. It was not 
as a suppliant but as an equal that he spoke for a great historical 
nation ; he was a figure of formidable powers whose proposals were 
not to be ignored. 



46 1874-1952 

The great array of Jewish solidarity for which Weizmann had 
worked in a single-minded fashion, frightened and enraged the 
Arabs. The first result of the creation of the Jewish Agency was the 
outbreak of violent anti- Jewish riots in Palestine. Jews were mas- 
sacred in Safed, Hebron and elsewhere, and a Commission presided 
over by a British Colonial Judge Sir John Shaw was sent out 
to investigate. In November 1930, the Colonial Secretary of the 
British Labour Government, Sidney Webb (by then Lord Pass- 
field) issued a White Paper in the name of the British Govern- 
ment, which, as on previous occasions, deplored the Arab riots, but 
tracing their cause to the natural reaction of the Arabs before the 
dangers of Jewish immigration, called for its curtailment, and a 
tighter supervision of Jewish activities. Weizmann's entire policy was 
founded upon the feasibility of fruitful co-operation with British 
Governments sympathetic to Zionist aims. The White Paper adminis- 
tered a severe blow to Jewish hopes, and was regarded by Jews and 
their friends everywhere as an act of injustice. It compromised Weiz- 
mann's entire position, and he felt obliged to resign from the presi- 
dency of the Agency. A volume of protest broke out not only from 
Jewish organizations but from Conservative, Liberal, and, in part, also 
Labour benches in Parliament, and outside it. A letter signed by some 
of the most prominent names in British public life appeared in The 
Times. The Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, bowed before the 
storm and sent a letter to Weizmann in which he interpreted the 
White Paper in a somewhat more pro-Zionist sense. Although 
the position was half saved for the moment, Weizmann never again 
felt the political ground firm beneath his feet. 

A year later, at the Seventeenth Congress in Basle, he was defeated 
by the combination of parties predominantly of the right. He sym- 
bolized the now discredited British connection. British behaviour 
strengthened the hand of the intransigent right wing which demanded 
more drastic anti-British tactics. Nor had he made himself more 
popular by being quoted in a newspaper interview as neither under- 
standing nor sympathizing with the demand for a Jewish majority in 
Palestine. Whether or not his position has been accurately represented, 
he was clear that the immediate prospect of increasing the trickle of 
Jewish immigration did not seem bright: he was inclining towards a 
temporary solution based on a claim to political parity with the Arab 
majority. Nahum Sokolow was elected President of the Jewish 
Agency, and until 1935 Weizmann was out of office. He did not sit 
with folded hands. He returned to his laboratory which had always 
served him as a source of moral strength. He devoted himself to 
the building and organization of the scientific institute in Rehovoth 



1874-1952 47 

which the generosity of the Sieff-Marks family had made possible. 
He begged eminent German Jewish scientists to leave their country 
over which Hitler's shadow daily grew darker, and come to Pales- 
tine; some were persuaded; the great chemist Fritz Haber died in 
Basle while on the way to Rehovoth. At the same time he continued 
to work in the Zionist movement. He undertook fund-raising jour- 
neys for Zionist agencies in South Africa, the United States and else- 
where; he took a vigorous part in the affairs of the central Zionist 
Bank the Jewish Colonial Trust founded by Herzl as an English 
company, which was facing an acute financial crisis during the great 
worldwide economic slump. He was invited and accepted the Zionist 
Executive's invitation to help in the urgent tasks created by the new 
and frightful predicament of the German Jews, caused by Hitler's rise 
to power in Germany, and threw himself into the work of rescuing 
refugees. He spoke and wrote; his unseen presence hovered over all 
Zionist action; Sokolow is said to have remarked that he was a mere 
umbrella-stand on which Weizmann had chosen to hang his hat. In 
1935 in Lucerne, at the Nineteenth Congress, he was returned to 
power. It was plain to all that he was irreplaceable, his authority in the 
Jewish and Gentile world unexampled. He was the greatest Jew in 
public life in modern times and his continuance as a private individual 
had become too much of an anomaly. 

Britain had behaved generously in giving asylum in the United 
Kingdom to the refugees from Germany. Its Palestine policy was 
another matter. It had become evident to most observers that in the 
rising tension between Germany and the Western world, the Arabs 
had politically far more than the Jews to offer to either side, and that, 
in consequence, their favours were likely to be solicited by the Western 
allies at the expense of the Jewish settlement, which, like a foundling, 
was proving more and more unwelcome to its adoptive British parent. 
Weizmann slowly came to realize that the Mandatory experiment was 
set on a self-defeating course. As a result of Hitler's persecution and 
the growing fears in Central Europe, Jewish immigration into Pales- 
tine had risen by leaps and bounds : economic absorptive capacity had 
proved far more elastic than the British administration and its experts 
had anticipated. In 1936 widespread Arab riots broke out, this time 
not merely against the Jews but also against the mandatory power, and 
developed into a species of guerrilla warfare. A Commission under 
Lord Peel was sent out to investigate and make fresh recommendations 
about the future of Palestine. Weizmann appeared before it in Jerusa- 
lem, and his testimony, both in form and content, is one of the most 
impressive documents, both intellectually and morally, ever submitted 
on behalf of a nation. It contained a survey and an analysis of unsur- 



48 1874-1952 

passed authority and force, dealing with the past, present and future 
position of the Jews in the world, historical, social, economic, and 
political; it formed the basis of thinking on this tormented topic 
for many years to come. Its prophecies were largely fulfilled. The 
Commission's report, itself a State paper of the first order and 
probably, to this day, the best account of British policy and action 
in Palestine, advocated partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab 
self-governing entities, although this was hedged in with important 
reservations. Weizmann tentatively accepted this plan with his 
own reservations, as the lesser of two evils. He thought that the 
Mandate had outlived its usefulness; that British authority both in 
London and in Palestine had plainly proved unequal to its task. 
It was a painful conclusion for a man who had cast his lot with 
Britain, and had paid dearly for his open admiration and love 
for British qualities. But having reached it, he set himself to 
persuade the Agency and Congress to accept partition. A storm rose 
in both the Jewish and the Arab worlds. The Zionist Congress, 
after passionate debates, accepted the solution in principle, although 
with radical qualifications. The Arabs rejected it outright. The 
British House of Commons voted for it by a majority, but the Govern- 
ment slowly and remorselessly sabotaged it, by collecting the 
inevitably adverse opinions of the Arab states, and by sending out a 
Commission to advise on the new frontiers, and accepting its conclu- 
sions that in fact no satisfactory frontier could ever be drawn. 
Weizmann lived through agonizing months. He had accepted the 
Solomonic judgment with anguish, on the ground that any viable 
Jewish self-governing territory, however small and insecure, was 
preferable to the alternative which was perdition. He was attacked 
from the left and the right as a traitor, an appeaser, a British agent. 

In America particularly partition was denounced by leaders of 
Jewish opinion as the sacrifice of economic viability and prospects 
of large-scale immigration to the mirage of political independence in 
an absurdly small area and one too difficult to defend a retrogres- 
sive step in a world of growing economic interdependence, the sacri- 
fice of a vision of a wider world, free from fiercely protected natural 
frontiers, to an anachronistic and narrowly political nationalistic 
ideal. For Weizmann the entire future of the Jewish people was at 
stake at this moment. It seemed to him clear that if they did not seize 
the opportunity of national independence now, the chance might not 
come again within the calculable future. 

The political situation in Europe rapidly grew darker. Italy had 
conquered Abyssinia, the civil war in Spain had ended in a fascist vic- 
tory, the Germans occupied Austria and began to threaten the Czechs. 



1874-1952 49 

The Palestine Arabs continued to harass the mandatory power and 
the Jewish settlements. The Jews formed a semi-legal defence corps of 
which the Haganah, originally formed in 1920, had been the illegal 
beginning; to some degree it co-operated with the British forces. 
Towards the end of 1938 came the final denouement. The false 
hopes engendered by the Munich Agreement faded rapidly. With 
the prospect of a war with Germany looming, the British Govern- 
ment, seeking to secure its Middle Eastern base, finally decided to 
yield to Arab demands. A veiled but ominous statement implying 
this, was issued in 1938. This was followed by the St James's Palace 
Conference, attended by Weizmann together with Ben-Gurion 
and other Zionist leaders, in which the Jews were pressed by the 
Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax and the Colonial Secretary Mr 
Malcolm Macdonald, to give up their dream of either a majority or 
an autonomous establishment, let alone a state, in Palestine. In 1939 
a British White Paper was published, which imposed severe restric- 
tions upon the transfer of land to the Jews, and made all prospect 
of Jewish immigration after five years dependent on Arab goodwill 
which was clearly not likely to occur in any foreseeable period. No 
one doubted that the British Government had executed a complete 
volte face: it was intended to liquidate the Zionist experiment for 
good. The path for Weizmann was now clear. He rejected with dig- 
nity and force the death sentence pronounced on the Zionist move- 
ment, accused the British Government of turning Palestine from a 
home into a death trap for the Jews, and prepared to fight. The 
Zionist Congress held in the late summer of 1939, during the last 
weeks before the outbreak of hostilities, haunted the memories of those 
who had been present. Delegates, as they spoke, were conscious that 
they might soon be cut off from each other, no one could tell when, 
perhaps never to meet again in this world; those from Eastern Europe 
knew that they were returning to probable torture and death. Weiz- 
mann, according to all accounts, towered over the meeting as the 
father of his people its misfortunes were directly reflected in his per- 
sonal agony. In September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland; Great Britain 
and France declared war upon Germany. Weizmann immediately 
promised the Allies all possible aid by the Jewish population in 
Palestine. A new phase had begun. 

In the early months of the war Weizmann again offered his 
scientific services to the country of which he had now long been a 
citizen. This time he found little response in official circles. He was 
appointed honorary chemical adviser to the Ministry of Supply, but 
this led to nothing. He reflected gloomily about the suspicious and 
negative official attitude in 1939-40, as contrasted with the more 



5 o 1874-1952 

imaginative response in the first World War. He pressed for the 
formation of special Jewish, and in particular Palestinian, units in the 
war against Germany. The Government departments, in particular 
the Foreign, Colonial and War Offices, were, above all, anxious never 
again to be, or seem to be, under any obligation to Zionists or their 
friends. Nor was there support from the leaders of the armed forces. 
Zionist hope was now centred upon neutral America, where the 
openly pro-Arab policy of the British Government was condemned 
by large sections of public opinion as part and parcel of the 
general policy of appeasement, culminating in the Munich agree- 
ment of October 1938. Weizmann's second son, Michael, had joined 
the British Royal Air Force on the day after Mr Chamberlain's 
triumphal return from Munich, and was now a pilot. Weizmann 
beat in vain upon the doors of government departments to secure 
admission into Palestine for Jews trapped in the still unconquered 
countries of Eastern Europe, fully realizing that the most probable 
alternative was extermination. Those who suspected him of softness 
with British officials, could now be matched with those who thought 
that the fierce words he addressed to the Foreign and War Offices, in 
which he virtually called them accomplices of Hitler, went too far. 

With the German invasion of the Lowlands and France in the sum- 
mer of 1940, Weizmann renewed his pleas that Palestinian Jews be 
allowed to fight as an autonomous unit. His wish was not realized until 
Mr Churchill, whose Zionist sympathies had never been in doubt, 
finally authorized the formation of this body in 1944. Weizmann 
remained in London during the bombing of the * Blitz', and received a 
more sympathetic hearing from the new Churchill administration than 
from its predecessor. In February 1942 his son Michael was declared 
missing by the Air Ministry. Neither Weizmann nor his wife Vera ever 
wholly recovered from this loss. In 1941 Weizmann went to New 
York; for the United States had by then plainly become the centre of 
gravity of the free world. In London Zionists were being treated as, at 
best, highly embarrassing allies ; in Washington minds seemed to Weiz- 
mann more open about the organization of the new post-war world. 
He rapidly became the centre of political activity within American 
Zionism. Old friends among British officials and politicians were not 
all unsympathetic. He saved at least one group of Jewish refugees from 
extermination by a personal intervention: but in general he could 
do little to modify the immigration policy of the British Govern- 
ment and its High Commissioner in Palestine, which led to the death 
and suicide of boatloads of Jewish victims of Nazism escaping from 
central Europe. He fared better in his approaches to eminent Ameri- 
cans. The American Government had declined all responsibility for 



1874-7952 51 

Palestine, and could afford a more detached view. The sympathetic 
attitude towards Zionist aims displayed by such American statesmen 
as the Vice-President, Henry Wallace, the Under Secretary of State, 
Sumner Welles, the Secretary for War, Henry Stimson, the Secretary 
of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau (who was a Jew), and indeed 
President Roosevelt himself as well as officials, journalists and 
leaders of opinion in every walk of life, owed a good deal to the extra- 
ordinary fascination exercised by Weizmann upon almost all uncom- 
mitted personalities with whom he came into contact. He continued 
with his scientific work in which Britain had displayed no interest. He 
duly took out an American patent for discovering a new process for 
the production of synthetic rubber. He hoped, perhaps, to repeat the 
'miracle' of the first World War, and use the value to the United 
States of his scientific contribution as a means of enhancing his status, 
an asset to be used in favour of his cause. His patents brought him 
royalties which made him financially independent, and this gave 
him that complete freedom of action which characterized his entire 
public life. His continued fame as a chemist added to his laurels in 
American eyes. 

As the victories of the West began to point towards the end of 
hostilities, Weizmann began once more to travel from America 
to England and back again, in a continuous effort to keep Zionist 
claims alive before the future peacemakers. Despite varying degrees 
of suspicion or hostility in the foreign ministries of all the major 
allies, the old Partition scheme, recommended by the Peel Com- 
mission, came to life again in the British Cabinet. The prospect 
of Jewish autonomy in Palestine was touched upon during the talks 
between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta. The Arab rulers 
remained adamant in opposition: King Ibn Saud of the Hedjaz 
warned Roosevelt that he would forcibly resist a pro-Zionist solution 
of the Palestine problem. There were American Jews, too, who feared 
a Jewish state as being likely to affect their own status, but they were 
not nearly as influential as their British predecessors had been in 1917. 
At a Zionist conference in New York the so-called 'Biltmore Resolu- 
tion' was passed, on 1 1 April 1 942, openly demanding for the first time 
the creation of a Jewish commonwealth in the whole of Palestine. This 
became part of the official programme of the movement. The initia- 
tive for it came from David Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian delega- 
tion. Weizmann did not oppose it, he had indeed written of a Jewish 
state as a world need in an article published in a New York periodical 
earlier that year; nevertheless the possibility of a self-governing Jewish 
dominion within the British Commonwealth still occupied his mind. 
The opposition to the Biltmore programme took the form of schemes, 



52 1874-1952 

promoted largely by left wing and other groups in Palestine and 
America, for a bi-national state of Jews and Arabs, an idea which 
had originally been discussed in 1931. In the meanwhile the war, 
which hampered travel and communication, led to some weakening of 
contact between Weizmann and the Jews in Palestine. The growth, 
during the war, of underground and terrorist Jewish groups deter- 
mined on violent resistance to British policy, scarcely impinged on the 
consciousness of Weizmann, then busily engaged in discussions with 
British statesmen about the future constitution of Palestine. In 1945 
the British Minister of State in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, was 
assassinated in Cairo by members of the Stern group in Palestine. 
Weizmann returned to London and found that Churchill's attitude 
had, as a result, stiffened against Zionist demands. The British Cabinet 
abandoned conversations about partition, and set itself to suppress 
rebellion in Palestine. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, 
had, some time before this, been instrumental in creating the League 
of Arab States, whose antagonism to Jewish hopes was unconcealed. 
President Roosevelt's attitude remained ambiguous until his death in 
1 945. In the summer of that year, in the first election after the end of 
the European war the British Conservative Government fell, and the 
Labour Party under Major Attlee came into power. Ernest Bevin 
became Foreign Secretary and pledged himself to solve the Palestine 
problem. His antagonism to Zionist demands increased steadily. 
Weizmann found little common ground between himself and either 
Bevin or the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, who thought the original 
British Mandate an egregious error. The pro-Zionist election pledges 
of the Labour Conference had evidently had little effect. Many 
schemes were discussed: division of Palestine into cantons, trusteeship 
and partition plans, an independent Arab state with guarantees to the 
Jewish minority all of which displayed a marked anti-Zionist bias. 
Meanwhile the American President, Harry Truman, was pressing for 
permission for at least one hundred thousand survivors from the Nazi 
concentration camps to enter Palestine. The Arabs threatened re- 
newed revolt. An Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry was sent 
out to investigate the situation. Weizmann delivered one of his most 
memorable addresses before it. After some disagreement among its 
members, the Commission recommended a wider measure of immi- 
gration than any British Government was prepared to accept. Mr 
Bevin was becoming progressively more irritated by Jewish pressure, 
especially in the US A. Illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine began 
to assume large proportions. Bevin's treatment of Jewish concentra- 
tion camp victims on board an 'illegal 5 ship named Exodus, who were 
compelled by him to return to the refugee camp in Germany from 



1874-1952 53 

which they had come, advertised, so it seemed to some, his growing 
anti-Semitism. Illegal immigration increased by leaps and bounds. 
Whatever the official attitude of the Jewish Agency, the sympathy 
with this movement of Weizmann and most other Jewish leaders far 
beyond the bounds of Zionism, and throughout liberated Europe as 
well as wide circles in the USA, was mounting rapidly. Resistance to 
British rule in Palestine on the part of dissident Jewish groups 
in Palestine grew in violence; the occupying authorities attempted 
equally strong repressive measures. Weizmann, who had during the 
greater portion of his political life, believed in the British association, 
and had indeed hoped that the Jewish community in Palestine would 
develop institutions, and a social and political temper, not dissimilar 
to British democracy, grew profoundly disillusioned and embittered. 
Even the friends of Zionism in England began to say to him that she 
could not be expected to take on obligations beyond her now greatly 
reduced powers,* its opponents denounced the iniquity of placing the 
Arabs under Jewish rule in any form. 

In 1946 the first post-war Zionist Congress assembled in Basle, and 
the British connection with which Weizmann's name had been in- 
dissolubly identified, was the fundamental issue before it. He had, 
though without enthusiasm, and in order to avoid a final rupture, 
advocated acceptance by the Jewish Agency of the invitation issued by 
the British Government to a conference in London in 1947. This pro- 
posal was refused by the Congress largely by the votes of the Pales- 
tinian representatives led by David Ben-Gurion, who regarded the 
entire policy based on co-operation with England as discredited and 
hopeless. Some of his former supporters now tended to look upon 
Weizmann as a statesman, who had been great and effective in his day 
and had rendered major services to the movement, but had become 
hopelessly bemused by his thirty years of work with the British, and 
was no longer aware of the new realities, either in Palestine itself or in 
the power relationships which had arisen after the war. Weizmann 
returned to London, once again defeated as a champion of the e anglo- 
centric' point of view, although he had, in fact, no illusions left about 
the attitude of the British Government. 

Notwithstanding the vote of the Congress, a conference with the 
British authorities did take place in London, but without Weizmann, 
and duly led to a total impasse. The Foreign Secretary decided, in the 
face of growing Jewish violence, to refer the entire issue to the United 
Nations whence all authority for British trusteeship in Palestine was 
in principle derived. The United Nations appointed a Commission 
of Inquiry (UNSCOP) which visited Palestine in 1947, and^before 
which Weizmann, then back in his home in Rehovoth, gave evidence. 



54 1874-1952 

The effect made by Weizmann's measured words on the Commission 
was, as always, profound. The Swedish chairman of the Commission, 
Dr Sandstrom, like his predecessors, had no doubt that Weizmann 
stood head and shoulders above everyone concerned in the affair. To 
the painful surprise of the British Government, the Commission 
recommended partition: the setting-up of an independent Jewish 
state in a part of Palestine as the only way out of a hopeless deadlock. 
In theory Weizmann was now a private citizen occupied in scien- 
tific research at the Institute situated near his home in Rehovoth. 
Even before his defeat at the Congress in 1946, the anti-British 
military activities authorized by the Executive in Palestine had been 
conducted largely without his knowledge, and when he, as head of 
the Jewish Agency, complained about this to his colleagues, it 
became clear that his advancing years and his reputation as an anglo- 
phile and a moderate, and perhaps other differences also, had decided 
his colleagues to withhold the details of military resistance from him. 
Nor did the British authorities, on their side, ever look upon him as 
among their enemies. When most of the members of the Zionist Execu- 
tive in Palestine were arrested by the British authorities, Weizmann 
denounced this act of the High Commissioner with bitter scorn. His 
final political links with England had been snapped. He occupied no 
official position in the Jewish Agency. Nevertheless when the future 
of the Jewish establishment once again formally entered into the area 
of international discussion, no one in the Jewish world doubted that 
Weizmann alone must represent his people before the nations. His 
health had long been undermined: he was growing blind, suffered 
from a chronic infection of the lung and a bad heart, and had been in 
ill-health for many months. He had no doubt about his course of 
action. He established his headquarters in New York, and in effect 
headed the Jewish delegation in the great United Nations debate in 
the autumn of 1947 which decided the future of Palestine. In Novem- 
ber two-thirds of the representatives of the United Nations voted in 
favour of the establishment of a Jewish state in a part of Palestine. 
This decision, and, in particular, the fact that the United States 
Government retreated from its last-minute attempt to substitute a 
trusteeship scheme for partition of Palestine into independent Jewish 
and Arab states, owed a great deal to Weizmann's personal interven- 
tions with President Truman, who had conceived great sympathy and 
admiration for the Jewish leader. He enjoyed similar consideration 
from M, Leon Blum in France, and produced an indelible impression 
upon other members of the United Nations Organization who met 
him at this time. He was naturally concerned with the frontiers of the 
future state. The US State Department wished to detach the Southern 



1874-1952 55 

Negev from the prospective Jewish territory, and this plan was put 
forward by the American representative to the United Nations. In 
the course of an interview with President Truman at a crucial 
moment, Weizmann succeeded in convincing the President that King 
Solomon's port on the Red Sea was indispensable to the new Jewish 
state if it was to preserve its communications with the Indian Ocean 
and the Pacific against a possible Arab blockade of the Suez Canal 
and the Mediterranean Jewish ports. The USA successfully resisted 
the plan to bisect the Negev, which became an integral part of Israel. 

Since 1946 Weizmann had identified himself wholeheartedly with 
claims to full Jewish statehood in Palestine. When, after the slow 
departure some six months later of the British authorities (whose 
government had not given their approval to the UN decision), the 
desirability of proclaiming an independent Jewish State of Israel was 
debated in Palestine, he sent messages to Ben-Gurion pressing for its 
creation. The declaration of Independence by the State of Israel on 14 
May 1948, was the fulfilment of his ardent wish. The state had been 
created in the face of a great deal of opposition and warning by inter- 
ested and disinterested powers; it was viewed with much nervous 
anxiety by many friends of Zionism and some Jewish leaders in Pales- 
tine who thought that the new state would be crushed by the numeri- 
cally vastly superior Arab armies. American policy in the United 
Nations vacillated under the influence of many pressures: the Depart- 
ment of State largely shared the view of the British Foreign Office. 
President Truman, whose regard for Weizmann's personality and 
integrity was consistently high, decided to recognize the State immedi- 
ately on its foundation. This personal act on the part of the President 
was a moral and political asset of incalculable worth for the new 
State; Weizmann's decisive part in securing it is not open to doubt. 

One of the first acts of the Government of the new State of Israel, 
headed by David Ben-Gurion, was to offer the Presidency of the 
State to Weizmann. His right to it was unquestioned. It was a posi- 
tion of high symbolic significance. Weizmann's acceptance of it was 
signalized by the new flag that was hoisted over his hotel in New 
York, but it carried with it no real power. His views did not com- 
mand general assent in the government of the state which he had, 
by universal consent, done more than any other human being to 
render possible. He returned to Rehovoth and his Institute, and his 
house there became his official residence. He was old and his health 
was failing, but his eyes had seen the fulfilment of the dream of 
which he had written to his teacher as a boy more than sixty years 
before. 

In 1948 Israel was invaded by the Arab armies and was obliged to 



56 1874-1952 

fight for its life. Weizmann had no doubt of the outcome. After the 
war had been won there was universal recognition of Weizmann's 
supreme achievement in recreating his nation. In his own country he 
was revered as the father of his people, a myth in his own lifetime. He 
performed his official functions as head of the State, and spent a great 
deal of time in scientific work. He was physically almost exhausted. 
He travelled abroad in an effort to recover his health, but it grew pro- 
gressively worse. He received foreign ambassadors and other eminent 
foreign visitors; he heard reports from his ministers, of whom he was 
at times sharply critical, saw and wrote to old friends, revised and 
added to earlier drafts of his memoirs, took continuous interest in 
affairs of state but little direct part in decisions of policy. Towards the 
end he grew almost totally blind. He died on 9 November 1952 (21 
Marcheshvan 5713) and he was survived by his eldest son Benjamin, 
and by his wife Vera with whose existence his own had been most 
intimately linked. Their deep and happy love, and the complete 
respect and trust which they felt for one another, was the foundation 
of both their lives. 

He was buried in the grounds of his house in Rehovoth. His grave, 
like that of Herzl, is at present a place of national pilgrimage in 
Israel. 

Sir Isaiah Berlin is Chichele Professor of Social and Political 
Theory at Oxford University. 



1874-1904 



CHAPTER TWO 

THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 

MAURICE SAMUEL 



6 If than wouldst know* 

GHAIM NACHMAN BIALIK. 

AMONG LEADERS of men it is not unusual to find complexity 
of character side by side with singlemindedness of purpose, but rarely 
has the contrast stood out as sharply as in Ghaim Weizmann. The 
contradictions in his drives and in his way of seeing life should on a 
common-sense view have led to a kind of paralysis; he was power- 
fully drawn towards a public career, and he hankered after the seclu- 
sion of the laboratory; he had a quick eye for the comicality of the 
human scene, and he was deeply involved in the human struggle; 
he was unawed by worldly success, and was determined to achieve 
it; he was unimpressed by the trappings of leadership and knew that 
the two are inseparable; he despised political guile and met it on 
its own ground; and, finally he alternated between despair of the 
Jewish people and unshakeable faith in its future. But where in small 
men contradictions cancel out, in great men they add up. 

All of us long to * understand' the 'great man 3 , and we are un- 
deterred by the fact that we don't understand the small man; we go 
after calculus before we have mastered arithmetic. Still, the effort 
has its peripheral rewards; we learn something about ourselves and 
about the setting which surrounded the subject of our search; the 
hero is an insoluble enigma but he is a useful approach to the study 
of history. This essay examines the Shtetl background of Weizmann's 
life. It does not purport to be an explanation or to provide a point-to- 
point correspondence between the man's character and his early 
environment; we shall observe many parallels and similarities as well 
as suggestions of development by opposition. But why Chaim Weiz- 
mann reacted as he did, and became what he became is another 
matter; there even his autobiography is of little help. 

The Shtetl, the Jewish village or rural settlement of East European 
Jewry, was itself a mass of contradictions. It was in the countryside, 

59 



6o 1874-1904 

but not of it; as an economic unit it was inseparable from its sur- 
roundings, as a spiritual phenomenon it was completely disjoined 
from them. It had its own institutions, its own way of life, its own 
language. We cannot classify the Shtetl as just another national 
minority village. Poles, Lithuanians, Ukranians did indeed speak 
different languages, observe different customs, sometimes belong to 
different churches. But it was all within reason; the spiritual and 
cultural substance of their lives had much in common; they belonged 
to the same civilization; they lived where they were and they lived 
contemporaneously. Half the time the Shtetl just wasn't there; it was 
in the Holy Land, and it was in the remote past or the remote future, 
in the company of the Patriarchs and Prophets or of the Messiah. 
Its festivals were geared to the Palestinian climate and calendar; it 
celebrated regularly the harvests its forefathers had gathered in a 
hundred generations ago; it prayed for the yoreh and malkosh, the 
subtropical former and latter rains, indifferent to the needs of its 
neighbours, whose prayers had a practical local schedule in view. 

Of his own village, Motol, near Pinsk, where he lived until his 
eleventh year, Weizmann writes in Trial and Error: 'We were 
strangers to their [the non- Jewish villagers'] ways of thought, to each 
other's dreams, religions, festivals, even languages. There were times 
when the non- Jewish world was practically excluded from our con- 
sciousness, as on the Sabbath and, still more, on the spring and 
autumn festivals. . . . We were separated from the peasants by a 
whole inner world of memories and experiences. . . . My father was 
not yet a Zionist, but the house was steeped in rich Jewish tradition, 
and Palestine was at the centre of the ritual . . . the Return was in the 
air, a vague, deep-rooted Messianism, a hope which would not die.' 
To live physically in one world, mentally in another, is fraught 
with psychological peril for an individual. How much more for an 
entire people which sustains this condition for generation after 
generation, century after century! The Shtetl was something of a 
freak, the life of its inhabitants correspondingly freakish. The contra- 
dictions in its external relations were paralleled by equally perilous 
inner contradictions, a fantastic divisiveness within unity, a high 
tension between the spiritual destructiveness of class antagonisms and 
snobberies and the spiritual creativity of a common dream. Little 
wonder that in the folklore and the relevant literature the attitude 
toward the Shtetl is one of extreme ambivalence. 

On the one hand it is remembered sentimentally. From just below 
the horizon historically speaking the Shtetl disappeared only yester- 
day it sends up a nostalgic glow for its survivors and for those of 
their sons and grandsons who retained some of the tradition; one 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 6l 

would think it had been one of the rare and happy breathing spells of 
the Exile, the nearest thing to a home from home that Jews have ever 
known. It stands up in retrospect as an impregnable citadel of Jewish- 
ness. The Jewish city, the 'mother in Israel' Vilna, Warsaw, Odessa 
had more Jewish life quantitatively, but it also had its large segment 
of defection. In the city Jews were exposed to worldly opportunity 
and a respectable non- Jewish culture,* in both these respects the 
Shtetl was surrounded by uniform inferiority. The city was famous, 
the Shtetl anonymous; the Shtetlach might be called the lamed- 
vovniks of East European Jewry the thirty-six anonymous saints 
who under the guise of humble ignoramuses stave off in every genera- 
tion the otherwise merited destruction of the world. The cities are 
known by their own names; the Shtetlach, if at all, by the names of 
the great men who issued from them. On the other hand the Shtetl 
is remembered with a grimace of repugnance. Forlorn little settle- 
ments in a vast, hostile and primitive environment, isolated alike from 
the centres of Jewish and non- Jewish civilization, their tenure pre- 
carious, their structure ramshackle, their existence a prolonged 
squalor to the outer view! Who would want to live there? 

The temptation of the sociologist is to strike an objective pose, to 
say judicially that the truth no doubt lies somewhere between the two 
extremes; but in this case the judicial would be an evasion. It is the 
peculiarity of the Shtetl that the truth lies precisely in the two 
extremes. The Shtetl may well serve as a symbol of Jewish life in the 
Exile, not a mixture which fuses into grey out a checkered pattern of 
black and white, of the ignominious and the inspiring. 

The close of Yal Peretz's wonderful story Between Two Cliffi> 
though pointed towards another theme, may serve here as a parable. 

Reb Noachke, the gentle and dreamy Ghassidic Rebbi of Biale 
receives a visit from his former teacher, the learned and implacably 
orthodox Rabbi of Brisk. They have not seen each other for many 
years; chance has brought them together, and the Rabbi of Brisk 
hopes to rescue his former pupil from the abomination of the Chas- 
sidic heresy. The young devotee of Reb Noachke, the intermediary 
and the instrument of the chance, thus describes the outcome: 

c He of Biale his memory be a benediction followed a custom 
of his own on the day of the Rejoicing of the Law. He would send his 
Chassidim out of the Study House and tell them to go strolling in 
the open air; he himself would sit on the verandah and take pleasure 
in the spectacle. 

c The verandah was on the second storey, and below it the village 
and its surroundings lay as in the palm of your hand, enclosed 



6s 1874-1904 

between the hills on the east and the river on the west. The Rebbi 
sits up there and looks down. If a group of Chassidim passes without 
singing, he throws them the opening notes of a melody, which they 
take up and carry away with them. So group after group goes by 
and, singing, spreads out into the fields, filled with true happiness, as 
is proper on the day of the Rejoicing of the Law; and the Rebbi 
would remain up there and never stir from his place.' 

Into this setting comes the rigorous Talmudic master, he of Brisk, 
all intellect and erudition, and begins a discussion with his former 
pupil, the mystical adept. But rather than explain himself in words, 
Reb Noachke invites his former teacher to step out on the verandah, 
and with him the narrator, who continues : 

*I saw the wide, enormous heavens, infinite in extent, and blue, 
radiantly blue, so that the eye was filled with delight. A host of little 
silver clouds floated up there, and if one looked closely one could 
really see that they quivered with happiness, as if they themselves 
were dancing in the Rejoicing of the Law. Below, within the circle of 
the hills and the river, the townlet lay imbedded in green, a dark and 
living green; one would have said that a living spirit breathed among 
the grasses . . . 

'On the meadows, among the trees and grasses, little groups of 
Chassidim walked to and fro. Their satin gabardines, and even those 
of cotton, glittered like mirrors all of them, even those that were 
ragged. And the flames that danced among the grasses touched the 
festive attire of the Chassidim and played with it; it was as if every 
Chassid were surrounded with exultant, joyous fire. And the Chassi- 
dim turned their longing eyes to the verandah, and the light in their 
eyes was drawn from the eyes of the Rebbi. And as the light grew 
their songs became louder, gayer, and even more sacred . . . and not 
they alone sang; the heavens sang, and the earth under their feet; 
the soul of the world sang, everything sang. 

'Lord of the world! The sweetness of it melted my heart. 5 

And there the Rabbi of Brisk stood, erect, majestic, hard, unseeing. 
Suddenly he brtike in with the sharp command: 'It is time for 
evening prayers. 5 

c ln that instant', says the narrator, 'everything vanished. I looked 
and saw an ordinary sky, and under it ordinary light. On the fields 
wandered beggarly Chassidim in tattered gabardines.' 

What you saw in the Shtetl Jews depended on which of two pairs of 
glasses you happened to be wearing. Of neither pair could you say 
that it distorted the picture, but you could not wear the two pairs 
simultaneously. Every Yiddish writer who has described the Shtetl 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 63 

which means practically every Yiddish writer keeps putting on and 
taking off his glasses according to mood; which pair he favours 
depends on his temperament. 

Weizmann, not a writer, but a leader and state-builder, also made 
use of both pairs, but in public he seldom gave utterance to his 
negative moods. 

All national literatures and nearly all serious recorders of a 
people's life alternate in their use of the glasses, but no other national 
literature has the schizophrenic quality of the Jewish from the Bible 
down to our own day. The Jewish people loves and hates itself, 
admires and despises itself, with pathological intensity. It Is either 
God-selected or God-rejected, and it cannot be the second without 
the first. Certainly no other people robbed of its homeland and sent 
into exile by nations no better than itself would go on repeating for 
millennia : 'Serves us right ! ' But then no other people goes on existing 
for millennia after expulsion and dispersion, and no other people has 
associated its ultimate purification and rehabilitation with the destiny 
of the human species as a whole. 

This aspect of the psychic environment in which Weizmann the 
child and youth grew up is best reproduced, among moderns, by 
Mendelle Mocher S'phorim, der zeide or granddaddy of Yiddish 
literature. He juxtaposes with unique starkness the negations and 
affirmations of Shtetl life and Jewish life in the Pale generally. Quan- 
titatively the negations predominate in Mendelle; from the bulk of 
his work the Shtetl emerges with such repulsiveness that one is put in 
mind of Swift's country of the houyhnhms, or rather of its arboreal 
yahoos; but on the same subjects he has passages so loving and 
tender that they border on the mawkish. 

He dwells with bitter gusto on the beggarliness of Jewish life in the 
Pale, its shlimihl-ishness, its cynicism, its complacency in misery. 

e lf you were suddenly to ask a Jew of Tuniadevky how he 
managed to make a living, the man would stand stock still in con- 
fusion, with no idea of what you are talking about. Then, coming to 
after a while, he would answer with a kind of daft artlessness : "How 
do I make a living? How do I support myself? There's a God in 
heaven, isn't there? And He doesn't forsake His creatures, does He? 
There's your answer, right there!" "But still," you insist, "what do 
you actually do? Have you a trade, a business, a profession?" His 
face lights up. "Praised be the Holy Name! To begin with take a 
good look at me, Mr Jew I have a gift from Him, a sweet voice for 
prayer, I'm in great demand hereabouts, among the villages, for the 
High Holy Days. Not for the main prayers, you understand, but for 
the supplementary prayers, the in-between prayers. And that's only 



64 

a beginning. Pm a first-class circumciser, and on top of that there 
isn't my equal in these parts for putting holes in matzos when Pass- 
over comes round. And what about playing the matchmaker now 
and again, and collecting a little commission? Wait! Pm not through 
yet I've got what you might call a kind of inn, and I milk that from 
time to time; I have a goat that milks well, and a rich relative who 
can be milked from time to time. So, as I was saying, there's a God 
in heaven, and there are our Jews aren't they the merciful sons of 
merciful fathers? 3 " 

He describes the Shtetl market-place, the 'merchants' and their 
merchandise a basket of vegetables, a few hens, a handful of rags, a 
couple of prayer-books. The synagogue is in ruins, the Talmud Torah 
the community school a farce ... a life of misery and decay. 

'I call up in my mind's eyes our little prayer-houses, dirty, dis- 
orderly, malodorous, filled with loiterers and loungers who lie 
stretched out on the benches puffing at their pipes and sneering at 

everything and everybody Idlers, loafers, cadgers, cripples . . . 

and suddenly a sound of music, a wedding procession, a boy bride- 
groom and a child bride, grandmothers clapping hands, the crowd 
rejoicing . . . Mazaltov, Jews! Good luck to your brand-new paupers, 
your candidates for the mendicants' club . . .' 

In The Travels of Benjamin the Third, we wander with the hero 
through Shtetl after Shtetl, each meaner than the other. Everywhere 
an absence of economic foundation and simple sanitation, everywhere 
rancours, pride of descent, exploitation. In a later novel, Shlomo 
Reb Chaims Mendelle depicts the appalling social discrimination. 
The hand of the baalebatim } the 'well-to-do' householders, lies heavy 
on the poor. A worker is forbidden to wear a silk gabardine or a 
shtreimel on the Sabbath it's not for the likes of him. In the syna- 
gogue his place is on the rear benches near the door. When called up 
to a reading from the Torah which is seldom enough, and only 
when the minor honours have not been distributed among his betters 
he is announced as chaver (member) and not with the honorific title 
of teacher. At community gatherings his opinion is not sought; if he 
protests he is answered with insults; he can even be dragged into the 
lobby and flogged. The children of the workers are 'chapped 3 
(snatched) and sent into the army, so that a tatten's a kind may go 
on studying or pretending to study in the beth ha-Midrash. A curious 
phrase, that, 'a tatten's a kind*, a-son-of-a-father, denoting the off- 
spring of the upper class. Who or what was supposed to have fathered 
the offspring of the poor? 

And the women, God help us, the women! Harridans whose 
mouths are filled with lyrical imprecations (the wives of 'Benjamin 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 65 

the Third 1 and of his companion, his Sancho Panza, Sender!), whose 
hands deal out slaps among the children and do not spare even the 
husbands. It is these wives who provide the * livelihood' for the family 
in the market-places; being the breadwinners they are the bosses of 
the household. 

Oddly enough, Shlomo Reb Chaims stands out among Mendelle's 
novels for its predominantly affirmative tone, its sentimentality. He 
wrote it after the persecution of Russian Jewry was renewed, follow- 
ing the assassination of Alexander II in 1881. He could hardly free 
himself from the pattern he had established in Die Klatche, Die 
Taxe, Fishke der Krumer and Maasos Benyomin Ha-shlishi\ but 
here, for the most part, he wears the rose-tinted glasses and sees the 
Shtetl as an extraordinarily beautiful phenomenon. The very aspects 
which had moved him to satirical fury take on a glamour and wistful- 
ness which seem to belong to another world. 

The hideous poverty of the Shtetl fades from the centre of his 
attention, which focuses instead on the spirit of high idealism accom- 
panying it. He does not deny the poverty; indeed, he makes it the 
springboard for his enthusiastic encomium on the lofty spiritual 
standards of Shtetl life. 'Let our grandchildren and their grand- 
children know what the house of a Reb Ghaim was like in the village 
of Kapulye, and how it was contrived to meet all the needs of a 
human being. There was really only one room, die shtub. It served as 
kitchen, dining-room and bedroom, and the sleeping was done mostly 
on benches shoved together against the wall near the stove. All week 
long this room was also a kind of saloon for the poor peasants, who 
would drop in for a jigger of whiskey and a beigel. For market days 
there was a supply of hard-boiled eggs, pickled herring, fried fish and 
fried livers. During the goyish winter festivals, the village girls came 
in their best dresses, the peasants in their best suits; they drank and 
played and cracked nuts, till they had to be driven out sometimes 
you had to drench them from head to foot with a bucketful of water, 
there was no other way of getting rid of them.' 

But wonder of wonders, this house in Kapulye, and its owner Reb 
Chaim, and Kapulye itself, shine for the writer with an unearthly 
radiance. ^A sheiner, yuster baalabos' was Reb Ghaim, a fine house- 
holder, one of the distinguished figures in the Shtetl. c And to be that 
it wasn't enough to have a shtub and a cow. With these alone you 
were merely rich, and if you had ten times as much but were un- 
learned you were still a grober yung, a coarse nobody. Of course the 
rich man is worshipped everywhere, but the inner respect of the 
community did not go to such. ... In Kapulye it was scholarship that 
counted, and so it was throughout Lithuania in those days; and 

D 



66 

Kapulye had been a place of learning from of old an ort fun Toireh 
fun eibige yohren where nearly all the inhabitants were by nature 
bookish, where the shuhl and Beth ha-Midrash were full, early morn- 
ings and late evenings, with householders, fathers of families, sitting 
and studying . . . and there were hot arguments and fiery sermons and 
flaming interpretations, sharp anecdotes and epigrams and parables 
which filled mind and heart with love toward man and God.' 

More remarkable still is the transfiguration of the market-women, 
the Chantzies and Yentes. A moving chapter is devoted to a 'wick- 
drawing' bee, something like a quilting bee, but religious in charac- 
ter. The village women assemble in one of the houses to draw out 
wicks for synagogue candles while they improvise prayers to the God 
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hardly one of them can read or 
write; the only Hebrew they know consists of words that have gone 
over into Yiddish. One must think of this pious company sitting by 
candle-light in a primitive cottage, around them a world completely 
alien but for a handful of cottages like their own. They sway to and 
fro as they repeat the words of the improvisor, and the thoughts and 
images they invoke go back through centuries and millennia to a 
place of prophecy and palm-trees and psalmody. 

* Judge of the world, merciful God! These candles which we are 
making for the synagogue, for your dear and Holy Name's sake, and 
for the sake of the souls of all the holy ones, these candles may they 
awaken the sainted patriarchs and matriarchs, and cause them to rise 
from their graves to intercede for us, that no evil, no pain and no 
suffering be visited upon us; that the light of our husbands and of 

our children be not put out before their time, God forbid As I 

draw out this wick for our Father Abraham, whom You saved from 
the fiery furnace of Nimrod, so shall You purify us from sin, so that 
our souls may come before You unspotted as on the day when they 
entered our bodies. And for the sake of the thread which I draw out 
for our Mother Sarah, remember, O God, her anguish when her son 
Isaac was led to the sacrifice. Let her be a good pleader for us, so that 
our children may not be snatched away from us, and that they shall 
not be scattered far away like lost sheep. And for the sake of this 
thread which I draw out for our Father Isaac, have mercy on us, O 
God, so that we may be able to bring up our children and afford 
a Rebbi for them, so that they may shine and learn and have 

knowledge of Your beloved Torah For the sake of the thread 

which I draw out in the name of our Father Jacob, whom You 
delivered from his enemies, standing by him in the hour of his need 
for his sake help us as You helped him, against all slanderers and 
betrayers, so that they may become dumb, and be unable to plot 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 67 

against us and blacken our name. . . . Help us, so that on the Day of 
Judgment a good sentence may be pronounced for us, and for our 
husbands, so that we shall not become widows and our children 
orphans. . . . And for the sake of Solomon, who built the Temple, and 
implored You that when a stranger, the son of an alien people, offers 
up prayer in it, You shall hear and heed him too for the sake of 
Solomon, O Judge of the World, keep open the gates of prayer, and 
let me be remembered to the good, with my husband and my children 
and all good people: Amen. 5 

At this point Mendelle breaks in passionately: e Let him laugh who 
can, let him, if he can bring out the words, say it is all foolishness. 
No ! May there be more such candles, many of these pure utterances 
of love for Torah and for all mankind.' He goes on to reflect: 'And 
where do you find all this, I ask? Among women who, seen from 
without, are coarse and ignorant, little souls of small account, women 
you will pass by in the market-place without glancing at a second 
time ' 

He becomes indignant : 'Let the mockers hear them, let them know 
what a Jewish heart really is.' And if the astonished reader were to 
protest: 'But you are the biggest of the mockers,' Mendelle would 
answer: C I mock them out of love, for their improvement; not so the 
others.' 

Whatever his mood and however extreme, no Jewish observer could 
deny that the education of the young was a central preoccupation of 
the ShtetL Weizmann writes: 'There was, in every townlet of the size 
of Motol, a government school, but attendance was not compulsory. 
Some of the peasants sent some of the children to school, irregularly; 
most of them grew up quite illiterate. By contrast the Jews, who did 
not make use of the government schools, and who had only the 
cheders, had a high degree of literacy. But there the education was 
entirely Hebrew and Yiddish. Those who wanted to give their 
children the beginnings of a Russian and modern education engaged 
a special teacher, usually of third-rate ability.' 

But on the subject matter of the education there could again be 
strong divergence of opinion. In Mendelle it is difficult to say what, 
on balance, he wanted. He was a lover of Jewish knowledge and 
tradition, he surely believed one could not start a child early enough 
on the traditional path; yet he was uneasy contemplating the divorce 
between the traditional Jewish education and the realities among 
which Jews lived, whether these were the neighbouring realities of 
the countryside or the wider ones of modern civilization. 

'All right, nature-shmature,' says a grown-up to a youngster, 'I 



68 

suppose it's not too bad though if you want to look at the whole 
thing it's just foolishness, and it's silly to waste a moment on it. Still, 
though a grown-up with wife and children and a living to make has 
no business to be fiddling around with nature, I suppose you can for- 
give it in a youngster Go ahead, then, take your walks in the 

wood at the back of the house . . . and look up at the birds-shmirds. 
But remember, you rascal, don't over-do it. Don't forget, you little 
hooligan, that a boy of your age has to be busy with the Talmud. 
Nature here, nature there but the important thing is the Tractate 
on Seeds!' 

What was the result of this attitude? 'Little Shlomo had accumu- 
lated, long before his bar mitzvah, as much experience as if he were 
of Methuselah's age. Where hadn't he been and what hadn't he 
seen ? Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Nile, Persia, Shushan, the capital 
of Ahasuerus's empire, the deserts and the mountains. It was an ex- 
perience unknown to the children of other peoples. For the Jewish 
child sat in his place and his studies had nothing to do with his sur- 
roundings. He could not tell you a thing about Russia, about Poland, 

about Lithuania and its peoples, laws, kings, politicians But you 

just ask him about Og, King of Bashan, and Sihon, King of the 
Amorites, and Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon! Ask him about the 
Euphrates and the Jordan. He knew about the people who lived in 
tents and spoke Hebrew or Aramaic; the people who rode on mules 

and camels He knew nothing concerning the fields about him, 

nothing about rye, wheat, potatoes, and where he got his bread from; 
he didn't know that such things existed as fir-trees, pines and oaks. 
But he knew about vineyards, date palms, pomegranates, locust-trees. 
... He knew about the dragon and leopard, the turtle dove and the 
hart that panteth after the living waters he lived in another world.' 

This was little Ghaim Weizmann's early education, as it was of 
hundreds of thousands of others. He says: I myself knew hardly a 
word of Russian till I was eleven years old. 9 Some of these youngsters 
repudiated the tradition when they grew up; others stayed rooted in 
it all their lives. Every individual had his own reasons; what we have 
here is a statistical and not a personal explanation. We begin to 
understand the general difference between East European Zionism 
and Western Zionism. Western Zionists like Herzl and Nordau saw 
only or chiefly the sufferings of Russian Jewry; Shtetl-born and 
Shtetl-bred Zionists were moved by more than hatred of the Exile; 
they were drawn irresistibly towards Palestine. 

We also get a glimpse into the mental composition of the Russian- 
Jewish students in Berlin, Montpellier, Vienna, Basle and other 
Western university towns who were the founding fathers of Zionism 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 69 

before the coining of Herzl; we understand something of the compul- 
sions of which they were the victims, and their ability to withstand 
the hostility and derision of their contemporaries. When, in 1914, I, 
a youth of nineteen, Western-educated though not Western-born, 
turned to the movement, Zionism was still a poky, hole-in-the-wall 
phenomenon, associated in the mind of intellectuals with Rosicru- 
cians, the search for the lost Ten Tribes, and similar esoteric absurdi- 
ties. Yet by 1914 at least famous men like Nordau and Zangwill had 
declared for the movement; Herzl had left his indelible stamp on it; 
the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 191 1 devoted two whole pages to it 
(and, incidentally, not much more to Communism). There were 
dozens of Jewish colonies in Palestine. But in the eighteen nineties 
there were only the faintest beginnings of colonization, and in the 
Western world the movement, which was not yet a movement but 
an obscure, formless though powerful agitation among the East 
European Jewish masses, must have looked correspondingly odder. 
Yet there they were, these Russian Jewish students, particularly the 
members of the Judisch-Russisch Wissenschaftlich.es Verein of Berlin 
(to which Weizmann, Leo Motzkin, Shmarya Levin, Nachman 
Syrkin belonged) talking big, but big, about the Jewish State-to-be, 
about international diplomacy, the buying off of Turkey, etc. A 
Westerner like me could have occasional doubts, not as to the 
Tightness of the enterprise, but its feasibility. Not they. They knew 
themselves to be makers of Jewish history. 

Within this uniformity of outlook and inspiration Weizmann was set 
apart from his fellow-students, not by superior dedication, and not 
alone by the superiority of his gifts this was not yet evident but 
by an intuitive consistency of long-range method, by a personal pro- 
gramme which he understood only in part. His fellow-students had 
brought with them out of the Shtetl and out of the Pale generally 
some of the negative as well as the positive features, most of all an 
impracticality which was to hamper their usefulness to the movement 
in later years. Weizmann came to Berlin in 1895, at the age of 
twenty-one, and he studied there till the age of twenty-four. He says: 
4 When I left Berlin for Switzerland, in 1898, the adult pattern of my 
life was set. Of course I learned a great deal in later years; but no 
fundamental change took place; my political outlook, my Zionist 
ideology, my scientific bent, my life's purposes, had crystallized. 3 

Those three years he sees as crucial. Against the background of 
the Judisch-Russisch Wissenschaftliches Verein he learned what he 
wanted and did not want to be. 'At first,' he writes, e l was greatly 
overawed by my fellow-students, among whom I was the youngest. 



70 

Fresh from little Pinsk, with its petty Zionist collections and small- 
town discussions, I was staggered by the sweep of vision which 
Motzkin and Syrkin and the others displayed. There was also a 
personal detail which oppressed me at the beginning. I was only a 
student of chemistry; they were students of philosophy, history, 
economics, law and other "higher" things. I was immensely attracted 
to them as persons and as Zionists; but gradually I began to feel that 
in their personal preparations for life they were as vague as in their 
Zionist plans. I had brought with me out of Russia a dread of the 
"eternal student" type, the impractical idealist without roots in the 
worldly struggle, a figure only too familiar in the Jewish world of 
forty and fifty years ago. I refused to neglect the lecture hall and the 
laboratory, to which I gave at least six or seven hours a day. I read 
on my subject, I studied consistently. I acquired a taste for research 
work. In later years I understood what deeper motives impelled me 
in those days to attend strictly to the question of my personal equip- 
ment for the life struggle. For the time being it was enough for me to 
make up my mind that I was going to achieve independence.' 

We do not find anywhere in the pages of Trial and Error a hint as 
to the 'deeper motives' which Weizmann thought were at work in 
him during the Berlin years. We know how magnificently the pro- 
gramme worked out, but Weizmann does not imply that he foresaw 
his role as Zionist-Scientist or Scientist-Zionist, or that he thought, in 
Berlin, of high scientific status as one of his important recommenda- 
tions to British and American statesmen in two world wars. He all 
but acknowledges that he became a scientist by accident. There 
happened to be among his teachers in the Gymnasium or Realschule 
of Pinsk, Kormienko, a man of exceptional gifts, and, for Russia, of 
exceptional devotion to his vocation. Kormienko taught chemistry, 
and e to him,' writes Weizmann, 'very possibly, I owe whatever I 
have been able to achieve in the way of science.' If Weizmann had 
come to Berlin as a general student, without this 'bent', would he 
have failed to make his way to the leadership of the Zionist move- 
ment and rendered it less signal service? 

The familiar question of the day is before us. Are the skills of a 
scientific training transferable to other fields? Was de Valera an abler 
statesman for being a mathematician, Berthelot for being a chemist ? 
The fact seems to be that the strain of practicality in Weizmann goes 
farther back than his scientific training. He was deeply influenced by 
his father, who, besides being a student of Maimonides, was in his 
way a thoroughly practical man. Ozer Weizmann was one of the 
'well-to-do' householders of Motol ('it may give some idea of the 
standards of well-being which prevailed in Motol when I say that our 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 7! 

yearly budget was probably seldom more than five or six hundred 
roubles two hundred and fifty or three hundred dollars in all'). 
He was a 'transportierer' in the timber trade. 'He cut and hauled the 
timber and got it floated down to Danzig It was hard and exact- 
ing work, but on the whole my father did not dislike it, perhaps 
because it called for a considerable degree of skill It was his business 
to mark out the trees to be felled and he had to be able to tell which 
were healthy and worth felling. 3 

Ozer Weizmann's worldly strain showed itself in other ways. He 
was the kind of man to whom people brought their disputes for 
arbitration, and he seems to have had the same sceptical humour as 
we find highly developed in his famous son. He refused to take sides 
in public or private quarrels. c lf a man insisted on telling him his 
side of the story he would listen patiently to the end and say: "From 
what you say, I can see that you are entirely in the wrong. Now I 
shall have to hear the other side; perhaps you are in the right after 
all." ' There was of course plenty of litigation in Motol, as in all 
Shtetlach; Sholom Aleichem and Mendelle and Peretz give us some 
idea of the bitterness and meanness of the disputes, and if Ozer Weiz- 
mann had not been a reluctant as well as a fair-minded arbitrator he 
would have been swamped by this ungrateful avocation. But it is 
clear that the Rabbinical dictum of Torah im Derekh-Eretz, scholar- 
ship and worldly wisdom side by side, was deeply implanted in Ozer 
Weizmann; it appears again strongly in his son. It is unlikely that if 
Chaim Weizmann had chosen a non-scientific career he would have 
been less systematic and practical in his approach to personal and 
public problems. As it was, he brought to his scientific work the kind 
of application which we associated with the best Jewish tradition. He 
understood the power of the tradition. Of Jewish scientific achieve- 
ments he writes: 'Our great men were always a product of the 
symbiosis between the ancient, traditional Talmudical learning in 
which our ancestors were steeped in the Polish or Rumanian ghettos 
or even in Spain, and the modern Western universities with which 
their children came in contact. There is as often as not a long list of 
Talmudic scholars and Rabbis in the pedigrees of modern scientists!' 

It is possible to draw a not too fanciful parallel between some of 
Chaim's childhood experiences and his mature responses to problems. 
He himself draws one. As a boy in Pinsk he used to take part during 
the Purim holiday in the money-box collections for Palestine: 'Purim 
always came in the midst of the March thaw, and hour after hour I 
would go tramping through the mud of Pinsk, from end to end of the 
town. I remember that my mother was accustomed, for reasons of 
economy, to make my overcoats too long for me, to allow for growth, 



72 

so that as I went I repeatedly stumbled over the skirts and sometimes 
fell headlong into the icy slush of the streets. I worked late into the 
night, but usually had the satisfaction of bringing in more money 
than anyone else. Such was my apprenticeship for the activities 
which, on a rather larger scale, have occupied so many years of my 
later life.* He may also have served, less consciously, another kind of 
apprenticeship, watching his father the arbitrator, or hearing him 
discuss a case, learning from him to whatever extent one can learn 
it the art of weighing personalities and possibilities. 

If it was accident that turned Weizmann's attention to chemistry it 
was not by accident that he acquired a modern and Western educa- 
tion. That was his father's doing. Though 'Motol was situated in one 
of the darkest and most forlorn corners of the Pale', though 'com- 
munication with the outside world was precarious and intermittent', 
though 'there was no post office and no railway, and no metalled road 
passed within twenty miles', Ozer Weizmann belonged to the 
world of the Maskilim, the enlighteners and modernizes of Jewish 
life, who were far more apt to be found in the cities than the Shtetlach. 
'He worried overmuch for his children. A Jew of the lower middle 
class, he aspired to give them the best education. There were twelve 
of us ultimately, and with his and each other's help nine of us went 
through universities an unheard of achievement in those days.' As 
we have seen, Chaim Weizmann's education was exclusively Jewish 
until the age of eleven ; such it would have remained if his father had 
not been modernized. Shtetl fathers dreaded the thought of a secular 
education for their children; they looked on it as the first step 
towards apostacy. Ozer Weizmann, however, sent the little boy of 
eleven to Pinsk, spine thirty miles away, to enter the Russian high 
school; a few years later the whole family moved to Pinsk, and one 
young Weizmann after another was launched on secular studies. 

By comparison with Motol, Pinsk was of course a metropolis. It 
had a population of some thirty thousand, of which two-thirds were 
Jews. The Jewish community had a long and illustrious history; 
famous Rabbis and scholars are on its rosters; modern Zionist leaders 
have come from Pinsk. In Weizmann's days it was one of the centres 
of Zionist agitation. Hebrew periodicals were obtainable there; 
Smolenskin and Pinsker and Ahad Ha'am, the pre-Herzlian Zionist 
thinkers and writers were studied; the Yiddish work of Mendelle, 
Peretz and Sholom Aleichem was read. If we want to schematize 
Weizmann's childhood-to-manhood years we may divide them into 
four periods: from his first year to his eleventh, in Motol, he imbibed, 
on the conscious and sub-conscious levels, his folk-Jewishness; from 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 73 

his eleventh to his eighteenth year Pinsk gave him his first training 
in Zionist work, and his first exercise in the adjustment of his Jewish 
to his scientific passions; in Berlin, from his twenty-first to his twenty- 
fourth year, he 'crystallized' his Zionist ideology and his life's pur- 
poses; in Geneva he was already a force in Zionism and a scientist of 
promise. His departure for England in 1904, at the age of thirty, was 
his 'withdrawal' he went to Manchester, he himself says, 'reculer 
pour mieux sauter*. After Manchester he was in effect, though not 
officially, the central figure of world Zionism. 

Something more should be said about the Pinsk period. It was 
there that Weizmann made his first sustained contact with the non- 
Jewish world. With a number of other Jewish boys he went through 
the high school course. The vast majority of students and all the 
teachers were Russian; the atmosphere in the school was patriotic, 
tinged with Russian mysticism, and the mystique was not without its 
attractiveness. There was, in fact, e a wide assimilatory fringe in 
Jewish life' in Pinsk. Tor that matter,* Weizmann adds, 'we, the 
Zionists, did not remain indifferent to Russian civilization and cul- 
ture. I think I may say that we spoke the language better, were more 
intimately acquainted with its literature, than most Russians. But 
we were rooted heart and soul in our own culture and it did not 
occur to us to give it up in deference to another/ In other words, 
there was no inner struggle, no temptation, no tug of contrary identi- 
ties or loyalties. Weizmann showed early his capacity for absorbing 
cultural values from the non- Jewish world without disturbing effect 
on the integrity of his Jewishness integrity in the etymological sense 
of oneness, wholeness. We are inclined to credit this capacity to the 
Shtetl childhood and education, but again this is a statistical and not 
an individual explanation. Eight of Weizmann's brothers and sisters, 
we have seen, ultimately settled in Palestine, but three did not, and one 
brother was a Russian revolutionary. Among Weizmann's Russian- 
assimilating school contemporaries there must have been other 
children of the Shtetl. It is a great pity that Trial and Error dwells 
so briefly on the early years, and mentions only the Zionists who 
came from Jewish Pinsk; we would like to know what happened to 
some of the assimilating Jewish students, and what roles they played 
in the later history of Russia and Russian Jewry. 

The integrity of Weizmann's Jewishness, so thoroughly established 
in his boyhood, helps us to sympathize with his feeling of shock when 
he first encountered German- Jewish assimilationism. On graduating 
from high school he left Russia for Darmstadt, Germany, to continue 
his education; he supported himself by teaching in an orthodox 
Jewish boarding school in nearby Pfungstadt, and this was his e intro- 



74 1874-1904 

duction to one of the queerest chapters in Jewish history 5 the 
chapter of the deluded 'Germans of the Mosaic persuasion 5 , who 
looked on German anti-Semitism as a trivial and evanescent 'mis- 
understanding 3 and thought of themselves as descendants of the 
Cerusci. The phenomenon baffled the young Weizmann; he found 
no channel of communication between himself and his colleagues; 
the Jewish orthodoxy of the school was utterly wild to him it had 
none of the folk warmth of Motol; the teachers, and the headmaster 
in particular, were the victims of that superiority-inferiority-complex 
in which the Jew is all sterling gold and his Jewishness a sort of 
private irrelevance. It was a traumatic but useful experience for 
Weizmann; he was going to have much to do with assimilationist 
Jews in later years. 

He endured Pfungstadt for two terms and returned to Pinsk, in 
part because of homesickness, in part because things were going badly 
at home, and his help was needed. For another year he lived in the 
midst of the Jewishness and Zionism of the Pale. When he left for 
Berlin, Motol and Pinsk had prepared him for the next stage of his 
development. 

It was by no means his last contact with the Shtetl and the Pale. 
Throughout his student years in Berlin and Freiburg, and later when 
he taught at the University of Geneva, he invariably spent the 
summer vacations in Russia, carrying the Zionist message to ever 
widening areas, beginning with the area about Pinsk and extending 
his activities till they covered a considerable section of the country. 
There was no world Zionist Organization until Herzl created it in 
1897; there were only groups of the Choveve %ion under the direction 
of the Odessa Committee. Weizmann urged the formation of local 
groups of the Choveve %ion and participated in the modest fund- 
raising of those days. Later he agitated for support of the Zionist Con- 
gresses. 'From the tiny communities of the marshlands I graduated 
to Vilna in the north, to Kiev and even Kharkov, with their large 
groups of student bodies, in the south.' 

What Weizmann acquired during these summer activities was a 
deep knowledge of Russian Jewry, its potentialities and its weak- 
nesses. He was at the heart of that great mass of Jewry which was to 
play the dominant role in the building of the Jewish homeland, 
giving it a character it still largely retains. Of the four periods into 
which I have somewhat artificially divided Weizmann 5 s pre- 
Manchester life the last two, Germany and Switzerland, witnessed 
his growth into leadership. The first two help us to see more clearly 
the nature of the struggle which arose between Herzl and Weizmann, 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 75 

and the growth and meaning of the democratic Faction', which 
was ultimately to become the main body of the Zionist movement. 

It was a clash between West-European and East-European 
Zionism; it was also a clash between two powerful representative 
personalities. From one point of view Herzl and Weizmann had in 
common an over-riding characteristic and an over-riding objective 
which should have kept them united. They were both supremely men 
of form; they wanted to bring order out of the chaos of Jewry and 
Zionism; they wanted to overcome the psychological handicaps of 
life in exile. But the differences of approach and method and experi- 
ence made harmonious co-operation impossible. 

Herzl did not grow into Zionism; Zionism struck him like a 
thunderbolt. The concept of the Jewish state flashed into him and 
changed his life, but did not change the effects of his life-experience. 
He saw the Jewish State in its completeness army and working 
hours, flag and clergy, duels and marriage-bonuses. The intermediary 
steps were conceived in the spirit of a state-in-being. In Der Juden- 
staat he presented this picture to the world, and the Zionist Congress 
was the anticipation of the Jewish state: therefore the Zionist 
Congress had to have fitting form and dignity (the delegates had to 
come in formal attire). Emperors, Sultans, Grand Dukes, Chancellors 
were at the outset part of the general decor, and the Jewish masses 
were the central theme. 

Weizmann began with the masses. His sense of form did not come 
to him from immersion in the Western world. Wherever it came 
from, he felt it as a reaction against the wretched disorder of the 
Shtetl and the Pale. Herzl thought of form as an instrument; for 
Weizmann it meant a transformation of Jewish life. We may even say 
that for Weizmann it was a more serious business than for Herzl 
for which reason his attitude toward it was more elastic. He was not 
as solemn about it. He could share the ShtetFs derision of it. But 
while pomp and circumstances as Narrishkeit were one thing, form as 
the craftsmanship of life, in science, politics, social relations, physical 
surroundings, aesthetics, manners, was a very different thing. It was 
what the Jewish people had to acquire inwardly, and Weizmann was 
its teacher in personal example and public life. It needed a Shtetl 
man, flesh of its flesh, bone of its bone, a Shtetl man who^had made 
the transformation in himself it needed such a man to initiate the 
transformation in the people. He had to draw from the Shtetl the 
power to overcome, against the inertia of centuries, the ShtetFs in- 
grained disdain of order and system, which it had come to regard as 
an essential ingredient of Jewishness. To the Shtetl form was a 
goyische sach, a Gentile business; it had to do with uniforms, govern- 



76 1874-1904 

ments, olam hazeh generally. But olam hazeh, this world, was the 
heart of the issue; the Jewish faith is not centred on olam haba, the 
next world, though the Jewish way of life in Golus was. Weizmann 
was a successful teacher and leader in this respect because he knew 
when form became choreography necessary choreography, un- 
doubtedly, since such is the language of the world, yet still only 
choreography as far as the inner man is concerned. He too could 
therefore be amused by the decorative fallals which belonged to 
'impressiveness' ; the sardonic Shtetl Jew was embedded in the digni- 
fied statesman, and the two were on friendly terms. 

An illustrative incident occurred at one of the early Congresses. 
Herzl had proposed that a Vice-Presidency of the Congress be given 
to Sir Francis Montefiore of England, the nephew of the great Sir 
Moses Montefiore. f We did not want Sir Francis as a Vice-President 
of the Congress,' writes Weizmann. He was a very nice old English 
gentleman, but rather footling. He spoke in and out of season, and in 
a sepulchral voice, of <e mein seliger Oheim my sainted uncle". . . . 
We did not mind him as a show-piece but we were rather fed up with 
his sainted uncle and we wanted that particular Vice-Presidency to 

go to some real personality When Herzl pressed his point on me 

I said, "But Dr Herzl, the man's a fool." To which Herzl replied, 
with immense solemnity: "Er off net mir konigliche P fort en he 
opens the portals of royalty to me." I could not help grinning at this 
stately remark, and Herzl turned white.* 

Weizmann regarded HerzPs approach to Zionism as 'simpliste and 
doomed to failure'. He had no faith in the rich Jews Herzl was court- 
ing, and none in the high negotiations he was conducting with the 
mighty. There was also, Weizmann remarks, e a touch of Byzantinism 
in his manner. Almost from the outset a kind of court sprang up 
about him, of worshippers who pretended to guard him from the 
mob. I am compelled to say that certain elements in his bearing 
invited such an attitude.' 

Even when, disillusioned with the rich Jews, Herzl turned to the 
masses, it was with a technique poles apart from Weizmann's. Herzl's 
was the magnificent gesture of a Congress, a calling up of the Jewish 
people; Weizmann's was the laborious tending of little groups, the 
winning over the student youth, the holding of conferences preceded 
by preliminary conferences patient organic construction of a 
national will that paralleled his idea of patient organic construction 
of a homeland. In the forlorn Jewish communities of his early mis- 
sionary work it was not a question of preaching Zionism as much as 
of awakening them to action.' Among the students of the West it was 
both propaganda and organizational preparation for action. From 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 77 

Trial and Error > but much more from Weizmann's enormous corres- 
pondence preserved in the Weizmann Archives, we obtain a picture 
of relentless activity. While Herzl was breaking his heart trying to get 
the grand 'Charter 3 for a Jewish state by diplomatic negotiations 
with statesmen (at the same time holding down his job on the Neue 
Freie Presse) Weizmann was breaking his back among the little 
people (at the same time pursuing his scientific studies) ; and not a 
little of Herzl's heartache was caused by the intransigent 'Young 
Turks' of the Zionist movement at a time when he was negotiating 
with the slippery Old Turks of the Sublime Porte. 

It came to open rebellion at least Herzl saw it as such in 1901, 
when the Weizmann group organized a Conference of the Youth at 
Munich; it was the clear intention of this group to 'take over', and to 
conduct the Zionist movement according to its special concepts. Herzl 
demanded that the conference be called off; he had 'weighty reasons 
of state' which he could not disclose; a Zionist Congress was due; he 
needed the unanimous backing of the organization; Weizmann and 
the other wild youngsters (actually Weizmann was only fourteen 
years younger than Herzl) were queering his pitch vis a vis 'the 
powers'. And we must remember that Herzl lived at times in a state 
of what must have seemed to Weizmann and seems to us now to be 
semi-hallucination: he was expecting the 'Charter' at any moment. 
He went on expecting it for years until his death in 1904; his 
capacity to survive disappointment was almost inhuman. No wonder 
he wrote in his Diaries: 'The most wonderful thing is when a man 
never gives up/ 

But the remarkable feature of that struggle in Zionism at the turn 
of the century was its historically co-operative character, and this on 
two levels. On one we may see Herzl as the myth, Weizmann as the 
demiurge; on the other the two protagonists play identical roles! 
Weizmann may have classed the response to Herzl's 'impracticality', 
his grand gesticulations, with the Shtetl's typical helplessness: all this 
talk of Sultan and Emperor was just so much rubbish. But the fact 
was and Weizmann knew it later that Herzl was startlingly prac- 
tical. Herzl was avatar on the first level, statesman on the other. 'The 
effect produced by The Jewish State*, writes Weizmann, 'was pro- 
found.' Yet 'not the ideas, but the personality which stood behind 

them appealed to us. Here was daring, clarity and energy If 

Herzl had contented himself with the mere publication of the booklet 
... his name would be remembered today as one of the oddities of 
Jewish history. What has given greatness to his name is Herzl's 
role as a man of action, as the founder of the Zionist Congress, and 
as an example of daring and devotion.' 



78 1874-1904 

It was Herzl's irreplaceable function to give form to the overall 
Zionist movement. He had the daring to present it to the world as 
the Jewish state on the march; this was more than daring, it was a 
kind of madness. Weizmann, in Trial and Error ^ written almost half 
a century after the struggle, is not altogether clear as to his final 
evaluation of his predecessor in leadership. 'I first saw Herzl at the 
Second Congress in 1898, and though he was impressive, I cannot 
pretend that he swept me off my feet. ... It seemed to me almost 
from the beginning that he was undertaking a task of gigantic magni- 
tude without adequate preparation.' But that was the very point! 
Had Herzl waited for 'adequate preparation' but we hardly know 
what that means in the circumstances! he would not have been the 
tremendous force he was; he would have died before achieving any- 
thing. But pursuing the fata morgana of the Charter he created the 
Zionist Congress; and without the Zionist Congress, a supreme 
creation of form, Weizmann would have found his own task doubly 
difficult. In the extended explanations Weizmann offers of his opposi- 
tion to Herzl we feel a certain uneasiness; he does not want to be 
misunderstood. Herzl was a great man, but the struggle was neces- 
sary, inevitable and wholesome. 

Perhaps a touch of rivalry remains for the first place in the history 
of Zionism. These were 'men of destiny 3 . Herzl knew it explicitly of 
himself after the 'road to Damascus' illumination of The Jewish 
State. How explicitly Weizmann knew it of himself it is harder to 
say; he would have considered it naive to admit it; but the careful- 
ness with which he kept records bespeaks at least a sense of responsi- 
bility to history. Often his private correspondence with his wife, 
particularly consists of reports of meetings and interviews, of plans, 
hopes, disappointments related to the movement. He confided to his 
letters what Herzl confided to his Diaries, but there is this difference : 
Herzl made it clear that he was writing for posterity; Weizmann, 
more subtle, would have had it that he was writing for his intimates 
and collaborators. 

With two men so different in their endowments and historic functions 
we should be wasting our time debating who was 'the greater man 9 ; 
but, debate aside, there is some interest in comparing Herzl and 
Weizmann as diplomatists. Elsewhere in this volume, T. R. Fyvel 
quotes Sir Charles Webster, the distinguished British historian, as 
saying that Weizmann's achievements in obtaining the Balfour 
Declaration was the greatest of all feats of diplomacy he had ever 

1 Trial and Error, by Chaim Weizmann (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1 949, 
New York, Harper & Bros., 1954). 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 79 

known. Sir Charles was intimately acquainted with Weizmann and 
his work; his knowledge of Herzl was at second hand. Who of the two 
men did more to bring the Zionist claim to the favourable attention 
of statesmen and the public cannot even be discussed; we can only 
compare the differences in personalities and historic contexts. 

The personalities fitted the contexts. Herzl had nothing to work 
with but an inspiration. There was no international political situation 
for him to edge into; there was next to no colonization in Palestine 
for him to point to. As diplomatist he had to operate with fantasy, 
and for this he was superbly fitted. His ability to rise above realism 
was his indispensable asset in the era when there were no realities to 
hand. When Weizmann entered the international scene things were 
in flux; there was a 'situation'; also there was something to show in 
Palestine, at least on a model scale. Weizmann had realities to 
handle, and for this he was superbly fitted. These are striking instances 
of the congruence between men of achievement and their time. 

We may say that Herzl had the imaginative gift of the artistic 
dreamer, Weizmann the imaginative gift of the artistic scientist. 
Herzl day-dreamed of the perfected Jewish state, hence the touch of 
Messianism about him, for Messianism is a kind of compulsive and 
panicky day-dreaming of perfection; but what saved Herzl from 
being a false Messiah was that he did more than dream. A powerful 
realistic impulse drove him in the setting up of the Zionist Congress; 
the same impulse bade him confide his Messianist side to his secret 
Diaries, in which he frankly notes that if they were made public 
prematurely he would be considered a lunatic. Weizmann 9 s imagina- 
tion, not less brilliant than Herzl's, was deployed among the empirical 
data of the laboratory, literally and figuratively; what is more, he 
had himself insisted on the setting up of the modest Zionist 'labora- 
tory 5 in Palestine or we may call it the pilot plant which would 
help him to 'sell' his idea to the world. 

We associate some of Herzl's diplomatic skill with his experience 
as political correspondent; for years he watched and reported the 
debates in the French Chamber of Deputies; there he also acquired 
some of his flair for political organization. But where did Weizmann 
find neophyte practice for his according to Webster incomparable 
diplomatic capacities? Where shall we look for the first evidence of 
his subtle, prehensile grasp of possibilities and characters? The 
material in Trial and Error is scanty until we reach the time of the 
Balfour Declaration, and by then we have passed beyond our ques- 
tion. His letters are more helpful; but on the whole we must resort to 
speculation. 

Weizmann's own view, as we have seen, is that by 1898, when he 



8o 1874-1904 

left Berlin, the adult pattern of his life was set. c Of course I learned 
a great deal in later years; but no fundamental change took place.' 
Weizmann may have been mistaken in this self-evaluation; there may 
have taken place between 1904, when he withdrew to Manchester, 
and 1917, when he went to London, an unforeseeable and fateful 
maturation; but it is unlikely that such a change can have come over 
him between his thirtieth and his forty-third years. He may therefore 
be wrong to this extent: the Geneva period (in which I include the 
preceding two years in neighbouring Freiburg, where he took his 
doctorate in science) represented in his growth more than he realized, 
and it was there that his diplomatic gifts were first manifested. 

This was the period of the programmatic founding of the Demo- 
cratic Faction; it was also the period in which the lines of the battle 
between Russian revolutionaries and Zionists for the possession of the 
Jewish student youth were clearly drawn. Lenin, Plekhanov and 
Trotsky were in and out of Switzerland in those days; their political 
philosophy had no room for a Jewish nationalist movement; for them 
the Jewish problem was peripheral, its solution a corollary. They 
resented a Jewish movement which had this problem at its centre. 
The Zionist youth was not anti-revolutionary, but the revolutionaries 
were anti-Zionist; again, the majority of Jewish students was not 
anti-Zionist, but it was overawed by the authority and the authori- 
tarian attitude of the revolutionary leaders. 'Thus the mass of 
Russian- Jewish students in Switzerland had been bullied into an 
artificial denial of their own personality.' 

And thus Weizmann, the leading figure in those circles, directed 
two struggles in which there was a considerable element of diplo- 
macy. He fought Herzl the Zionist leader while seeking to strengthen 
the movement; he fought the revolutionaries while refusing to place 
himself and his fellow Zionist in the anti-revolutionary ranks. As he 
notes, 'the struggle was not of our choosing . . . our sympathies were 
with the revolutionaries.' His antagonists were bound to picture him, 
in both instances, as giving aid and comfort to 'the enemy', and 
while no one would accuse him of anti-Zionism, he was labelled by 
the revolutionaries as a reactionary. 

We may call the problem here one of intellectual diplomacy, but 
when we think of the details we see the need for person to person 
diplomacy, in which evaluation of personalities plays a crucial part. 
Which were the serious men and which the windbags? Who had to 
be won over, whom could one ignore? Where should one yield, where 
insist? Timing is an essential element in action, and intuition comes 
into play as well as calculation. All this is part of the diplomacy of 
leadership. 




Early Life 



1 Chaim Weizmann aged 
8 in Motol 

2 The family house in 
Motol where he was 
born 





4 Weizmann (centre] in Geneva in 1901 with (left to right] Ephraim 
Lilien, Leo Motzkin, (sitting] Feiwel and Martin Buber 



Ff"T" 





6 Weizmann's house in Manchester 




Weizmann and some of the Faculty of Manchester University, 1912 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 8l 

The extent of Weizmann's Zionist activities during that period is 
hardly reflected in his memoirs; it is from the letters that we gather 
how much time and nervous energy were taken up by the movement, 
and we are astonished that anything was left over for his scientific 
pursuits. He obviously had an appalling capacity for work, and a will 
that overcame exhaustion. Nor must we forget that he was already 
learning the bitter taste of leadership; the wheel was turning and 
when it came full circle Weizmann was to know how Herzl suffered 
under internal opposition. The Democratic Faction had its own 
faction from the beginning, and Nachman Syrkin's passionate 
socialism-without-Zionism was a thorn in Weizmann's side. In the 
mellow pages of Trial and Error Weizmann speaks with warmth and 
unaffected admiration of Syrkin; but at the time of the struggle his 
descriptions of Syrkin are far from generous. This we see in his 
private correspondence; how he expressed himself in public we do 
not know. 

The complications in Weizmann's position at this time invite a 
larger study than can be given them here. It cannot be denied that 
Herzl was in an important sense a reactionary figure. His diplomacy 
belonged to the eighteenth century. He represented the Jewish 
people and had little acquaintance with it. He worked for its salva- 
tion from above, a king negotiating with kings. Neither Herzl nor 
Weizmann was conventionally religious, but in their respect for 
religion there was a revealing divergence. Herzl, says Weizmann 
correctly, fi had excessive respect for the Jewish clergy, born not out of 
intimacy but of distance'. Weizmann was a democratic figure in this 
sense among others: he saw that the Jewish people had to be the 
chief instrument in its own liberation; he worked for salvation from 
within; and on the whole Weizmann (like his deeply religious father) 
was anti-clerical. Herzl was painfully anxious to demonstrate that the 
Zionist movement was not socialist and revolutionary; Weizmann, 
not a socialist or revolutionary, could not ask the Jewish masses to 
disguise their hatred of autocracy Russian autocracy in particular. 
Herzl was asking the Jewish people to let him manage its affairs; 
Weizmann wanted it to manage them itself. There was much of the 
classical Shtatlan in Herzl, with this difference: the Shtatlan was 
usually a rich Jew who undertook to represent the Jewish people for 
the benefit of his class, while Herzl was thinking only of his people. 
Weizmann, however, conceived of Zionism as the antithesis of 
Shtatlanut in any sense. 

All this had become clear to Weizmann in his Berlin period, but it 
was in the Geneva period that he entered seriously on the practical 
applications. He was never blind to the unique significance of Herzl, 



8s 1874-1904 

and he was never reconciled to his technique; here is another facet 
of the need for intellectual diplomacy. But towards the close of 
the Geneva period Weizmann had already begun the exercise of 
diplomacy in its ordinary sense. When the struggle over the British 
offer of Uganda to the Zionists was at its height he made a visit to 
England and interviewed Lord Percy, then in charge of African 
affairs, Sir Harry Johnston, the famous explorer, an authority on 
Uganda, and Sir William Evans Gordon, the father of the Aliens Bill 
which had sharply cut down Jewish immigration into England. (He 
does not tell us how, ignorant of English as he then was, he com- 
municated with them.) His interviews confirmed his deep-rooted 
belief that the Uganda idea was utterly impracticable this apart 
from his equally deep-rooted views as to its 'ideological and moral 
shortcomings' and the report he wrote contributed not a little, he 
felt, to the defeat of the Uganda proposal. Relevant at this point is 
the early evidence of Weizmann's propensity to negotiate, to seek out 
the right people, to get at the realities and to act on them. That at 
thirty, an obscure foreigner, ignorant of English, he obtained what 
seem to have been solid and detailed explanations from these three 
important men is even more striking evidence of the power to impress 
and charm which became his mightiest asset. 

Without knowing how he come by this personality and these gifts, we 
see plainly, I believe, that their expression and exercise were closely 
related to his Shtetl and Pale upbringing. He had a special appeal for 
the Jewishly moulded masses, and was therefore eminently fitted to 
help them help themselves. They loved him because they knew that 
he knew them 'inside out' and shared their ambivalence; he loved 
them without illusion. There was also something piquant in his rise 
to Jewish world leadership; it was peculiarly pleasing to them that a 
'Yiddel from Motolle' should have made the grade, that the world 
Should accept him rather than some distinguished semi-assimilated 
Westerner. There was a c knowing' relationship between Weizmann 
and the Yiddish-speaking masses; they had, as it were, a private wink 
for each other. It detracted somewhat from the mystique of leader- 
ship, but it made the mutual attraction stronger. 

Weizmann carried with him the weight of the Jewish masses as 
Herzl did not and the weight of Jewish history. He remained of the 
Shtetl while he transcended it. He was respected by non-Jews for 
both aspects. He was completely at ease among non-Jews, he felt no 
discomfort and occasioned none. He did not as consciously assimi- 
lating Jews often do put his hosts under a strain, practising and 
tacitly requesting evasion of Jewish subjects. One of his favourite 



THE ROAD FROM MOTOL 83 

phrases was: *C*est a laisser ou a prendre^ take it or leave it/ not in 
a chip-on-shoulder spirit, but naturally and good-humouredly. 

The massive relationship between Weizmann's Shtetl identity and 
his effect on the world dominated the public tribute to his memory 
when he died on 9 November 1952. His tremendous qualities were 
linked with his Shtetl upbringing. c It is well that we try to under- 
stand the elements of native ability, environment and character that 
made the man and his career.' *. . . a great humanitarian, a man of 
the moral stature to stand beside the patriarchs and judges of the 
long, proud past of the Jewish people.' 'Like the industrialist tycoon 
who likes to call himself a simple country boy, Weizmann would 
introduce himself as a humble Jew from Motol. He was far more 
complex ... he moved about banquet halls, diplomatic conferences, 
and secret meetings with the aplomb of a great lord . . . yet Motol 
was never far off. Though Chaim Weizmann was fluent in seven 
languages, it was in Yiddish that he felt most at home. His humour, 

too, was peculiarly Yiddish ' c He belongs to a generation that has 

seen changes greater than in any similar span of history. Yet within 
it there can be few men whose end was so markedly removed from 
their beginning, yet so markedly linked to it by a chain of spirit and 
purpose.' 

This aspect of Weizmann's relationship to his people is of more 
than biographical or historical interest; it has some bearing on the 
future of Israel and of world Jewry. The effective part of world 
Jewry today consists of two groups ; those sons of the Shtetl and the 
Pale who have been largely responsible in Israel for making Israel 
what it is; and those who constitute the majority of the Western 
Diaspora. With the passing of Weizmann there disappeared the 
unifying personal symbol of Israel and the Diaspora; he was the last 
world- Jewish leader. The times are such that his greatness in that 
role is not understood and this lack of understanding is, precisely, 
the symptom of our present difficulty. World Jewry is engaged in a 
double task with a single ultimate purpose. The consolidating of 
Israel as an independent nation and the promotion of a Jewish 
renaissance in the Diaspora should mesh in the movement towards 
world Jewish unity; they mesh imperfectly because of conflicting 
claims for priority in action; and out of this conflict another has 
arisen over priority in significance. A tactical question has been 
blown up into a vast strategical decision, and we have not, at the 
moment, a man of Weizmann's moral authority to restate the 
situation in perspective; nor are we willing at the moment, to recog- 
nize that the answer is represented in the heritage of Weizmann's 
personality. 



8 4 1874-1904 

The conflict is not new. It began with the Zionist movement itself 
Shall (or can) Jewry remain a world people with a Jewish state in 
Palestine, or shall the Jewish state represent the be-all and the end- 
all? Weizmann, like his teacher Ahad Ha'am, saw in this question 
a false antithesis. Weizmann loved Diaspora Jewry because he was of 
it; he was the architect of the Jewish state (and so obviously that 
there was simply no question as to who should be its first President) 
because he knew the need for it, both in itself and for the sake of a 
continuing Diaspora Jewry. Beyond all his remarkable gifts it was 
this unity in duality that lifted him to the position of the most repre- 
sentative Jew of the twentieth century, and made him the symbol of 
the Jewish future. The distractions of a transitional era obscure the 
perspective, but it will stand out clearly when the total purpose of a 
Jewish state will be fulfilled. 

Mr Maurice Samuel, author and lecturer, is an authority on 
Jewish folkways and Yiddish literature. He has translated Sholem 
Aleichem, J. L. Peretz and Sholem Asch, among others, into 
English. 



1904-1914 



CHAPTER THREE 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 



ISRAEL M. SIEFF 



WEIZMANN'S DECISION to leave the Continent and settle down in 
England, certainly one of the most momentous of his life, was in a 
way a form of retreat. It was, curiously enough, to some extent a 
result of the great Uganda controversy. 

Herzl had been inflamed by the British offer of Uganda primarily 
because of his concern with the fate of Eastern European Jewry. Yet 
it was, ironically, among Russian Jews, victims of the Kishinev 
pogrom of 1903, that the most unyielding opposition to the Uganda 
proposal arose. Herzl had been successful in rallying the 6th Zionist 
Congress to the support of Uganda, but although 295 delegates voted 
in its favour, there were 175 against it, and about a hundred absten- 
tions. The upshot was that the opposition to Uganda could not be 
stifled; it compelled Herzl to relieve it of responsibility for maintain- 
ing the 'unit* rule, marched out of the Congress, and produced the 
first split in the Zionist movement. 

But in spite of Herzl's technical victory the Uganda offer withered 
on the vine. It was definitely rejected by the yth Congress, in 1905, a 
year after Herzl's death, and from then on the Zionist movement, 
after the secession of the pro-Uganda faction, led by Israel Zangwill, 
remained undistracted, at least by territorial questions. The resolu- 
tion of the Uganda controversy was to leave the Zionist movement 
unshakeably fixed in its concentration on Palestine, and on no other 
country, as the object of its territorial aspirations. 

After Herzl's technical victory, however, Weizmann found himself 
in a curious position. He had never been able to accept Herzl's stand 
on the Uganda question, but at the same time he was in no position 
to challenge it successfully against the tremendous authority and self- 
confidence still reflected by Herzl and his closest colleagues. With no 
faith in Herzl's policy on Uganda, and still without an effective 
following for any other course, what, in fact, could he do but retire, 
like Muhammad, and wait with patience? 

87 



88 1904-19*4 

This was how it seemed to him at one point during the aftermath 
of the Uganda compromise. But there were other factors. The world 
around him was breaking up. Assailants and defenders were taking 
up positions. Britain and France, for long rivals in Africa and in the 
Levant, were drawing together into an Entente Cordiale, in order to 
resist the advances of the Kaiser, a rival newcomer. Even more signifi- 
cant, was the news from Russia. The Tsarist Empire was reeling into 
defeat at the hands of the Japanese. Russia was losing one decisive 
battle after another. 

It was against this general background of turmoil that Weizmann 
packed his bags to leave the Continent. In later years, he was never 
precise or consistent when he came to explain the reasons for his 
departure from Geneva, and especially his choice of Manchester. In 
his frame of mind during those critical months, he passed through 
many changing moods of hope, frustration, disappointment and 
determination. Sometimes his reasons were personal, as when he was 
afraid that he was becoming a political luftmensch more often it was 
political, and linked to his ever-mounting despair over Zionist policy. 
He could see no way out in the Geneva milieu in which he moved. 
'I perceived', he wrote later, 'the utter inadequacy of the Zionist 
movement, as then constituted, in relation to the tragedy of the 
Jewish people. 3 

HerzPs death merely served to underline this inadequacy. Weiz- 
mann' s departure at that moment, not for the funeral in Vienna, but 
for provincial Manchester, was perhaps the strongest symbolic act of 
his career. It was the first public demonstration (to himself if to no 
one else) of the iron that was in his soul. He recognized that his travail 
over Zionism had for the time being led him into a cul-de-sac, or 
possibly a parting of the ways. He had to choose one road or the 
other; there could be no compromise. 

His choice of Manchester, though he was directed there by his 
scientific inclinations and recommendations, was probably acci- 
dental. But there can be little doubt that once he decided to leave 
Geneva, he wanted to go to England more than to any other country. 
He had great almost touching faith in England and in the English. 
It was a faith that went back to his school days in Motol, and that 
was to stay with him to the end, despite the many disappointments 
it caused him. And so Weizmann came to England, settled in Man- 
chester, married his fiancee Vera and maintained his resolve to with- 
draw from active Zionism but not for long. 

How could he turn his back on the extraordinary changes that 
were taking place, which demanded a Zionist reassessment? As he 
settled to his work, the Russian defeat at the hands of the Japanese 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 89 

touched off the uprising in St Petersburg and in Warsaw. Revolution 
was followed by large-scale mutiny. The foundations of the old world 
largely inhabited by 'his 3 Jews were beginning to rock. In 
Britain, too, the Conservative Balfour Administration was entering 
on its eclipse. 

Weizmann's sojourn in Manchester coincided with the last sup- 
posedly 'peaceful decade* that preceded the first World War, though 
it was nothing of the kind. All his life he had been a most sensitive 
political seismograph, and he could not fail to register the upheaval 
that had begun, with its implications for Zionist aspirations in Pales- 
tine, as well as the Jewish need for a haven somewhere in the world. 

The Manchester decade of 19041914 gave Weizmann the time to 
make a reappraisal of Zionist policy and methods, as well as an 
opportunity to prepare his mind to cope with the changing inter- 
national scene. With his scientific mind he was always careful to pre- 
pare his approach to a problem. He had an ideal objective, which he 
tried to define as clearly as he could. His struggles with David 
Wolff sohn, Leopold Greenberg and Max Nordau had not weakened 
his faith in his methodical approach, but strengthened it. His discus- 
sions, speeches and debates helped to crystallize his central idea, the 
synthesis of practical and political Zionism. Whilst naturally critical 
of those who opposed him, he was also prepared at all times to put 
his own ideas and theories to a critical analysis. 

My account of the Manchester period is bound to be strongly sub- 
jective. My relations with Weizmann were based upon mutual 
affection and trust. To those who loved him he disclosed the endless 
treasures of his spirit, and to me, in my youth, he seemed both 
prophet and statesman a synthesis of the prophets of the Bible and 
of the vigorous thinkers of the nineteenth century. 

Our intimacy enabled Weizmann to explain to me, without re- 
serve, his motives for many of the ideas and actions that seemed at 
the time incomprehensible in some ways and too visionary, but that, 
in perspective I now see as always having led towards the goal of the 
independent State of Israel. 

I had the good fortune, along with my wife and brother-in-law 
Simon Marks, to have been continuously in Chaim Weizmann's com- 
pany, from 1913 to 1921, sharing many of his experiences and discus- 
sions and also, his often eloquent silences. We spoke endlessly about 
the future of the Jewish people in terms of the fluid international 
situation and, after 1917, in terms of the vision conjured up by the 
Balfour Declaration. Nothing was impossible. The Jewish state was 
'just around the corner'. He spoke to us countless times of his hopes 
and his frustrations, his likes and his dislikes, his visions and his dis- 



go 1904-1914 

appointments, his philosophy of life and of science, his love of the 
Jewish people and his burning faith in the Jews' will to become an 
independent people and to create a state that would not only be 
materially prosperous, but that would establish a society reigned over 
by the ethics of the Bible. He believed that, out of the turmoil of 
world conflict, the Jews would eventually emerge as the bearers of 
the Messianic message depicted in Isaiah especially the words in 
Chapter 2, Verse IV: c And they shall beat their swords into plow- 
shares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up 
sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. 3 

Weizmann and I had first met at a dinner given by a kinsman of 
mine in Manchester during the summer of 1913. During the evening, 
Dr Weizmann explained to the guests the working of the Keren 
Kayemeth, emphasizing that it was the 'pennies of the people' that 
would finally redeem the Land of Israel for the House of Israel. The 
word 'pennies' struck me as a petty unit for such a grand goal; I 
asked why it was not possible to collect pounds. I added that, for the 
Manchester Jewish Hospital, we had, one week before our meeting 
that evening, collected 28,000 from the Manchester Jewish com- 
munity. Could we not do the same for the Keren Kayemeth? With a 
boastful gesture, I added that I would be prepared to go to the next 
Actions Committee to show its members how to do it. Dr Weizmann 
then invited me to attend the next meeting, which was to be held in 
Berlin in August 1914. Next morning, our host telephoned me to say 
that Dr Weizmann considered me e a foolish fellow' ; he was probably 
right. I telephone Dr Weizmann to say that I wanted to meet him 
again as soon as possible, to prove to him that my foolishness had 
been a temporary aberration. He agreed to see me and so our 
friendship began. 

Looking back now, it is easy to over-simplify the influences that 
played upon Weizmann during the Manchester years. He never for- 
got his first talk with Balfour in 1906, and he never deviated from the 
ideas expressed by him in the letter he wrote in 1885 to his ld 
teacher in Motol, in which he expressed his abiding faith that, unlike 
all other nations, 'England will have mercy on us. 9 

His connection with the Manchester Society was a curious one. 
He liked to talk to the members but never got close to them. There 
was no intimacy of contact, no real warmth of affection. Of course 
there were some Zionists to whom he was delighted to talk. But once 
the conversation was finished he would escape to his laboratories or to 
his home and there find relief from the discussion on Zionist plans, the 
majority of which, as it seemed to us then, had little hope of being 
implemented, 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD gi 

Manchester Jewry was a pleasant society. Numbering about thirty 
thousand, it was composed, in the main, of Jews from Eastern 
Europe. Not many Jews from Germany remained within the com- 
munity; most of them had become assimilated, and indeed, con- 
verted to Christianity. There was a small proportion of Sephardi 
Jews, but they did not play an important r61e in the life of the 
community. It was, on the whole, a homogeneous group, though 
there were, to be sure, different levels of prosperity. But there was 
less snobbery than existed, say, in Germany, between the German 
Jew and those whom they described as e Ost-Juden'. There was a 
certain freedom of association and tolerance between the e old settlers' 
and the new immigrants. They were e landsleute'. The synagogues 
were the centre; there a pure democracy reigned. They were a 
charitable community, led by men like Nathan Laski, Charles Drey- 
fus and others. As in all Jewish communities, the family counted for 
a great deal. The Zionists were, as yet, a small group. 

The arts were dominated by the famous Halle Orchestra, con- 
ducted by Sir Charles Halle, and, after his death, by Hans Richter. 
Besides, Manchester University was an institution of higher learning 
that housed scientists like Ernest Rutherford and William Henry 
Perkins, philosophers like Samuel Alexander and historians like 
Tout. 

Manchester was also the centre of a growing chemical industry, 
the home of Brunner Mond (later the Imperial Chemical Industries) 
and of Aniline Dyes, of which Charles Dreyfus, at one time a leader 
of the Manchester Zionist Association, was the Chairman. There 
existed, therefore, in Manchester, all the elements, in the community 
and in its cultural life, through which Weizmann could find a 
sympathetic response to his intellectual and scientific ideas. 

I once asked him why he chose to live in England. It was remote 
from the centre of Zionist activity and at that time he did not know 
English very well. He replied that he believed England would give 
him freedom to carry on his scientific work, and, above all, that his 
Zionist activities would find sympathy and understanding among the 
people. 

In his admiration for England, and in his conviction that its 
people would somehow understand and even support the Zionist 
aims and aspirations, he was the spiritual heir of Herzl who, at a 
meeting in London in 1898 had said, Trom the first moment I 
entered the movement, my eyes were directed towards England 
because I saw that, by reason of the general situation of things there, 
it was the Archimedean point where the lever could be applied. 9 

It was a similar sentiment that motivated Weizmann when he too 



92 1904-1914 

looked to England. At the 1903 Zionist Congress on the Uganda 
project, he said 'If the British Government and the British people 
are what I think they are, they will make us a better offer' (ie than 
Uganda). And in 1911, at a Conference of the English Zionist 
Federation in Manchester, he said: 'The English Gentiles are the 
best Gentiles in the world. England has helped small nations to gain 
their independence. We should try and get Gentile support for 
Zionism. 5 

Weizmann was thirty years old when he came to England. He had 
been to London earlier as a delegate from Pinsk for the 4th Zionist 
Congress. At that time he was not a Zionist leader, he was just an 
ordinary delegate who had yet to win his spurs in the movement. He 
had no friends in this country, but he was anxious to find Jews with 
whom he could discuss his visions. It was on the success or failure of 
his ideas and policies that he judged himself. He was his own self- 
appointed critic; he needed no other. It was for this reason that he 
was impatient of outside criticism; he thought much of it was petty 
and irrelevant. 

His first two years in England were not happy. Because of his 
opposition to the Uganda scheme (in this he was uncompromising) 
he was cold-shouldered by the Zionists; he felt friendless. But his 
withdrawal from the organizational centre of the Zionist movement 
at that time took him out of the main stream of Zionism; it gave him 
the time and freedom to think through his Zionist principles once 
again. 

How true was it that Weizmann came to England in order to with- 
draw from Zionism? 

It is a fact that he was troubled by the state of Zionism after the 
1903 Congress and, more particularly, by the Uganda conflict. 

On the other hand, it proved difficult for him to abstain from his 
interest in the way the Zionist movement was developing. The 
struggle with the 'politicals' in some measure compelled him to 
resume his Zionist activities. He began to visit the Manchester Zionist 
Society and took part in its discussions. 

In 1905, he was elected the Manchester Zionist Society's delegate 
to the English Zionist Federation Conference, and in July of that 
year, he spoke at a London Mass Meeting on Shekel Day. He was 
also appointed the Manchester Zionist Society's delegate to the yth 
Zionist Congress to be held in Basle in July of that year. Thus he 
was increasingly drawn into the Zionist movement in this country, 
although at first he had the utmost difficulty in finding a common 
language with Anglo- Jews. 

One of the outstanding events of 'the Manchester Decade' was, of 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 93 

course, Weizmann's meeting with Balfour, which took place in the 
Queens Hotel in that city in January 1906. The interview had been 
arranged by Charles Dreyfus, who was Chairman of the Manchester 
Conservative Party at that time, as well as Chairman of the Man- 
chester Zionist Society and an ardent 'Ugandist'. Balfour had said 
that he would be interested in meeting an anti-Ugandist, and Dreyfus 
thought Balfour would convince Weizmann in favour of Uganda. 

But it was the other way round. Balfour asked Weizmann why he 
was against Uganda, adding that it was a practical project and that 
the British Government wanted to be helpful. Weizmann replied that 
Zionism was a spiritual idea that had to be implemented in the Holy 
Land to keep the movement alive; deflection from Palestine would 
be idolatry. Uganda, he knew, was a well-meant offer, but the Jewish 
people would never give their money or their energy to settle a huge 
wasteland unless it was one with which they had historical and 
emotional ties. The Holy Land had a magic appeal that would act 
as an inspiration and a stimulus. Then came the famous conversation 
that is part of Jewish history, when Balfour was asked by Weizmann 
if he would change London for Paris. Balfour replied, 'No, but 
London is the capital of my country.' Weizmann answered, 'Jerusa- 
lem was the capital of our country when London was a marsh.' Later 
in the conversation, still referring to the attitude towards Uganda, 
Balfour said, e lt is curious the Jews I meet are quite different,' and 
Weizmann replied, 'Mr Balfour, you meet the wrong kind of Jews.' 

Balfour always said afterwards that it was his first meeting with 
Weizmann that made him a Zionist. 

The interview with Balfour taught Weizmann two things firstly, 
that in spite of Zionist propaganda, a leading and distinguished 
statesman like Balfour had only the most rudimentary and, indeed, 
naive conception of what it stood for. Secondly, he felt that if there 
had been a group in England who could have presented the case for 
the Jewish National Home to the British authorities effectively and 
convincingly, it might not have been difficult to enlist their sympa- 
thetic, and perhaps active support. 

How far the conversation with Balfour made Weizmann see the 
need for a thorough change in the character of the Zionist movement 
it is difficult to say, but there is no question of the fact that he felt 
that the time was ripe for such a change to take place. He had un- 
mistakably passed beyond the Uganda dead point, and felt he must 
resume his Zionist activities. 

His 'Manchester period', and his partial and temporary with- 
drawal from the Zionist movement, reinforced his desire to take up 
scientific research again. He liked Manchester University and wanted 



94 1904-1914 

to become part of it. After a short period in the Research Laboratory, 
Professor Perkin permitted him to give a weekly lecture on Fer- 
mentation Chemistry, and promised to nominate him for a Research 
Scholarship to start at the beginning of the following year. In 1905 
he gave his first scientific lecture in the English language; he recalled 
that he reached the lecture room with a rapidly beating heart, for he 
was much more affected by the challenge awaiting him in this 
lecture room than he had been by any of his important Zionist 
speeches. Some students stayed behind and asked questions, and he 
was sure that they were satisfied by his replies. He felt, as he put it, 
'triumphant', and from that time on felt much closer to the students. 

In spite of the satisfaction he drew from his scientific work, there 
still existed within him a basic conflict as the result of the continuing 
partial repression of his Zionist activities. He constantly felt that the 
future of Zionism demanded his attention. Gradually his mind was 
building up the main line of strategy to be followed as soon as he 
was able to take a more active part in the movement. 

During this time, many of his Zionist friends (including Shmarya 
Levin) had been urging him to give up his work at the university and 
to go to Berlin to head one of the departments of the Zionist Organ- 
ization there. This offer seemed tempting, since he was disappointed 
at not having received a full professorship at the university as he had 
expected after having taken his Master of Science degree. In 1913 
he had been appointed Reader in Biological Chemistry; he felt that 
this might have entitled him to a full professorship, since there was a 
vacancy at Manchester University in this subject. He was convinced 
that he had sufficient ability as a teacher and that this, in addition to 
his good relations with his students, would be rewarded. 

Thus the opportunity to go to Berlin and to take up the proposed 
post with the Zionist movement came at a time when he had to make 
a decision about a path of his future activities. His sharp sense of 
pique about the Manchester professorship led him to consider the 
Berlin proposal, but fortunately for the future of the Zionist move- 
ment his wife, Vera, was entirely opposed to the idea. She disliked 
Germany. In point of fact, Weizmann himself disliked that country 
when he had first gone there as a ig-year-old student; even at that 
time he had become aware of assimilated German Jewry 'exerting 
itself frantically 5 , as he wrote later, c to efface its own identity'. 

It was not only in regard to the Berlin idea that his wife played 
such an important part in influencing Weizmann's decision. This is 
not the place for a resume of Vera Weizmann's activities and her 
own contribution to the Zionist movement, ever since she came to 
Manchester in 1906. But what a vital part of those days she was! 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 95 

She shared in all our discussions, our disappointments, our joys. Her 
own powerful spirit was an ever-present and indispensable supple- 
ment to his faith and courage. Without her his life would have been 
infinitely more burdensome, particularly in those times of repeated 
trial and bitter crisis. Vera herself has told me of the nostalgia she 
has often felt for what she describes as 'the most wonderful epoch of 
our lives'; in this she includes that first decade of her and Chaim's 
life in England. 

It was, as it happens, through one of the many organizations in 
which his wife was interested The Manchester School for Mothers 
that Weizmann was first to meet C. P. Scott, the famous editor of 
the Manchester Guardian who was destined to figure so prominently 
in later events. Describing this initial encounter (which took place at 
a private home in Manchester in the latter half of 1914, at a party 
in support of this School for Mothers) Weizmann recalls that Scott 
invited him to his home a few days later. Weizmann then spoke to 
him of Jewish hopes and aspirations for Palestine; Scott listened with 
the utmost attention and, at the end of the conversation that day, 
said he would like to put Weizmann in touch with Lloyd George 
(then Chancellor of the Exchequer). 

That interview with Lloyd George, which Scott arranged, took 
place in December 1914. In addition to Weizmann, Lloyd George 
and C. P. Scott, Herbert Samuel (then a member of the Asquith 
Government) and Josiah Wedgwood were also present. In the course 
of the discussion Herbert Samuel announced that he was preparing a 
Memorandum, for presentation to the Prime Minister, on the subject 
of a Jewish state in Palestine. This utterly astonished Weizmann, 
who had (mistakenly, as he confessed later) assumed Samuel to be 
the type of Jew who, by his very nature, would be opposed to 
Zionist aspirations. 

The interview with Lloyd George was very satisfactory; it led to a 
further meeting with Balfour, and may have marked the starting 
point of the road leading to the Balfour Declaration. From the begin- 
ning not only Scott but the entire editorial staff of the Guardian 
became staunch adherents of the Zionist cause. Harry Sacher, who 
was then on the Guardian staff, also introduced Weizmann to 
Herbert Sidebotham, the Guardian* s principal political writer, who 
later was to become an unfailing supporter of Zionism. 

Weizmann meanwhile continued his work at Manchester Univer- 
sity, and so, between 1906 and 1914, his two lives ran side by side, 
and, during this period, he enjoyed his work as a research scientist 
more than at any other time. He finally obtained his Doctorate of 
Science and published a great many scientific papers. 



g6 1904-1914 

The Uganda split and the continuing struggle between the 'prac- 
tical* and the 'political 5 Zionists led to a period of sterile dissension. 
This was reflected in Zionism at large as well as in the English Zionist 
Federation. Added to this, there was discord in Great Britain between 
the Zionist Federation and the Order of Ancient Maccabeans, a 
friendly society, the head of which was a member of a well-known 
Anglo- Jewish family Herbert Bentwich. 

Weizmann took an uncompromisingly radical view on the ques- 
tions that were relevant to these diverse quarrels, whether it was 
Mount Zion or Uganda, the type of colonies to be established in 
Palestine, the use of Hebrew in the schools or the establishment of a 
Hebrew University. 

In a lecture given in Manchester in 1 905, Weizmann drew attention 
to the difference between the two attitudes of mind in Zionism, 
between East and West. The former regarded Zionism as a national 
necessity, to which the persecution of the Jews had no special 
relevance. The latter considered it no more than a philanthropic 
movement directed towards the alleviation of the harmful conditions 
under which Jews lived in some countries in the Diaspora. This com- 
parison so dominated his mind in those days that he appeared almost 
to have a contempt for rich Jews who gave so much for charitable 
purposes. He threw the weight of his sympathy on the side of the 
Russian Jews who were doing something concrete in Palestine. He 
made much of the idea that the rich Jews regarded the settlement of 
the Jews in Palestine as 'not practical' whereas to Weizmann the 
word 'practical' carried an entirely different meaning. He therefore 
saw the Uganda project as a form of philanthropic deviationism that 
would result in a dissipation of the effort of the Jewish masses. But it 
must be said in justice to the supporters of the Uganda plan that 
they had been driven to desperation by the pogroms in Russia and 
their effect on East European Jewry. As Israel Zangwill, the leading 
British spokesman for the Uganda solution, put it in a speech made 
in Manchester in 1905: Palestine was closed; 'we do not know for 
how long. It is not a case of waiting seven years for Rachel and meet- 
ing Leah (Uganda). It is a case of Leah or nothing'. Zangwill ended 
his speech by saying that Palestine in one jump would be too great 
an effort for the Jews; he added, 'it was too much even for Moses*. 

At this period, nearly all British Zionists were supporters of 
Uganda; Weizmann recalled that it was regarded as a betrayal of 
Zionist ideals to criticize the project. Of the Jewish leaders in 
England at that time, only Moses Gaster stood with him as a 'Nein- 
Sager' an opponent of the Uganda project. 

Weizmann also had to suffer the opposition of The Jewish 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 97 

Chronicle and its editor, Leopold Greenberg, who became very 
hostile to his ideas and tried to bar Weizmann from the English 
Zionist movement. The Chronicle resented Weizmann's oft-repeated 
assertion that when he first arrived in England, Zionism was in a 
state of stagnation, limited to cliches and clap-trap, 

However, in June of 1905 the Zionist Federation, at its half-yearly 
meeting, agreed that it was the unalterable decision of the Zionists 
to secure the establishment of a publicly recognized and legally 
secured home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The meeting 
pledged itself to reject any alteration to the Basle programme or the 
substitution of any place but Palestine as its goal. Thus, at last, 
Weizmann's policy triumphed; the Ugandists had been routed. 

It was then that Zangwill left the Zionist movement and formed 
the Jewish Territorial Organization, which Weizmann considered 
had the advantage of isolating its followers and thus of 'purifying' 
Zionism. The victory brought him into friendlier contact with the 
English Zionists, and he was no longer regarded as a 'revolutionary 
outsider'. 

The struggle between the 'political' and the 'practical* Zionists, 
which had led to Herzl's acceptance of the Uganda offer, was rooted 
in the idea that there was no point in starting practical work in 
Palestine unless the 'political charter' had been achieved. The 'prac- 
ticals', on the other hand, held that nothing could be stable or 
permanent unless the land had been acquired, colonies established, 
and large numbers of immigrants settled in Palestine, to evolve as 
Jews both economically and culturally. 

It is, I think, true to say that Weizmann was conscious of two 
meanings of the word 'practical'. For him, practical work in Pales- 
tine was something based on faith; it might very well be impractical 
in terms of sheer business sense. This contrast in meanings he brought 
out in a speech in Manchester in 1906, when he said: 'rich and semi- 
rich Jews might be practical men, but when has the liberation^ of a 
people been carried out by practical means? It is the "impractical" 
Russian Jews who are doing something'. 

The discussions that took place on how to utilize a sum of 
300,000, which was the capital of the Jewish Colonial Trust (the 
financial instrument of the Zionist movement at that time) brought 
out the differing views of the opposing outlooks of the movement. 
The 'politicals' wanted the capital to be left intact, so that more 
could be added as time went on, leading to the millions that would 
be necessary for the eventful right to establish a home in Palestine, 
which was then Turkish territory. 



g8 1904-1914 

the foundation of agricultural and industrial enterprises in Palestine 
was treated with scant respect by the then President of the Zionist 
Organization, David Wolffsohn, and his colleagues. Weizmann was 
accused by his opponents of irresponsibility for wanting to use such 
large sums of money for 'visionary schemes', but Weizmann retorted 
by saying that 'should the money be lost, the chief thing is that the 
idea will remain'. He had faith that the Jewish people would be pre- 
pared to find the money required if they saw real, constructive work 
being carried on in Palestine. 

Weizmann had imagined that after the defeat of the ' politicals', 
the Zionist leadership might agree to a policy of gradual peaceful 
penetration of Palestine, and a full practical programme. He used 
his time in England to attempt to convert the English Zionist 
Federation to his views; he thought he would use them as a e ginger 
group' to move the Zionist Organization. In this he was disappointed. 
At the Ninth Zionist Congress, which met in Hamburg in 1909, 
Weizmann, whilst President of the Permanent Steering Committee, 
made a vigorous attempt to have Wolffsohn removed and a Presi- 
dential Committee of 'practical Zionists' set up in his place. He 
criticized the Inner Actions Committee, made up of 'practical 
Zionists', for not being sufficiently active. Wolffsohn first defended 
the Inner Actions Committee and then offered his resignation 'on 
grounds of health'. 

Weizmann' s motion for a Presidential Committee was not voted 
upon, as the majority of those who were proposed as members refused 
to stand. The conference ended with Wolffsohn proposing that the 
status quo be maintained and that the present officers remain in 
office until the next Zionist Congress. 

Thus the battle between the ' practicals ' and the 'politicals' con- 
tinued to be waged until 1911, when Wolffsohn was replaced as 
President of the Zionist Organization by a Presidential Committee 
of 'practical' Zionists, under the chairmanship of Professor Otto 
Warburg, a German Jew of great culture and personal charm. Weiz- 
mann took a leading part in the discussions that finally effected these 
changes, though he did not as yet hold a high office in the Zionist 
movement Executive. However, as Chairman of the Congress's Per- 
manent Steering Committee, he exercised considerable influence, 
both in the discussions and in the decisions. 

Gradually, new Zionist activities in Palestine were decided upon 
and instituted. Official sanction was given for a study of the whole 
country from Dan to Aqaba. Plans were formulated to promote 
agriculture and industry on democratic principles. Education, schools 
and cultural development centres were to be promoted to the utmost. 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 99 

New intellectual forces were to be encouraged to settle in Palestine, 
to plan and lay down a blue print of effective Colonization 5 . There 
was a determination to reject any activity that was petty and purely 
philanthropic. 

At last, at the 1911 Zionist Congress, Weizmann succeeded in 
effecting a change. Wolffsohn had decided to retire whatever the 
Congress might decide. The Jewish World correspondent reported 
that 'all eyes were on Weizmann as, in a voice full of emotion, he 
gave the names of the future leaders of the movement*. They were 
Otto Warburg, Arthur Hantke, Schmarya Levin, Victor Jacobson 
and Nahum Sokolow. Warburg was elected Chairman of the Board, 
and Weizmann was appointed to the Greater Actions Committee. 

The leadership had now passed into the hands of the 'practicals* 
and Weizmann proceeded to plan for definite constructive work. He 
believed that the Jewish public would support the schemes c not out 
of love of Zionism but because all other projects for dealing with the 
Jewish question have broken down'. 

The new phase did not bring Weizmann any respite from attacks 
by European and English Zionists. Joseph Cowen of the English 
Zionist Federation Executive, Leopold Greenberg of the Jewish 
Chronicle and others continued to accuse him of destroying political 
and diplomatic activity by his plans for colonization and settlement 
in Palestine. 

Writing in Trial and Error about his re-entry into the Zionist move- 
ment after the defeat of the Uganda project, Weizmann says: 'Man- 
chester became a centre of Zionist thought destined to spread its 
influence through the surrounding towns and to leave its impression 
upon English Zionism*. He also refers to a 'strong group of Zionists 
which had formed in Manchester, including Harry Sacher, Simon 
Marks and Israel Sieff young men of great ability and a sense of 
social responsibility 5 . Earlier there had been others, such as Joseph 
Massell, M. Sortman, Nahum Adler and I. Wassilevsky, to mention 
only a very few of the Manchester Zionists of those days. The other 
side of the picture, of course, was that during this decade the Man- 
chester Zionist Society had not made much impact on the Jewish 
community. Its members, fired by HerzPs Alt Neuland, were mostly 
'politicals'. 

With the outbreak of the war in August 1914, Weizmann, who had 
a remarkable ability to re-assess new situations, quickly came to the 
conviction that the time had come to concentrate on political con- 
tacts. His first objective was to renew his acquaintance with Balfour, 
and, on the basis of their discussion in 1906, extend its scope to the 
new possibilities. 



ioo 1904-1914 

As a diplomatist, Weizmann brought to political strategy the 
orderly mind of a scientific research worker. He understood that with 
the coming of the war, all nations even neutrals would be in the 
political melting pot, and that from this situation an independent 
Jewish state might emerge. 

He worked out his strategy in Manchester. Britain held the key to 
the gate of Jewish independence. He felt that the moment of decision 
was not far off. It might be in his generation. The man who had 
fought relentlessly against the 'politicals' was to become the model 
leader of Zionist political planning. 

Weizmann made his first journey to Palestine in 1907, after the 
Eighth Zionist Congress, held at The Hague. He recalls that, during 
the voyage, 'The Zionist and the chemist were at war within me. I 
was so anxious to be detached and objective that I denied myself the 
value of my emotions'. He reports his feelings at setting foot on the 
land that had been such an integral part of his thoughts since child- 
hood: when he at last found himself face to face with reality the 
encounter was c neither as good nor as bad as he had anticipated'. 

At that time, the Jewish population of the country, then under 
Turkish rule, totalled about eighty thousand; there were some 
twenty-five colonies on the land. 'The dead hand of Halukah', Weiz- 
mann wrote, 'lay on more than half of the Jewish population and, 
in an age which was to witness the reconstruction of the Jewish 
homeland, they were a useless, and even retarding element.' Even 
the Bilu pioneers, motivated though they had been by devotion and 
the highest ideals, had fallen into the habit of relying on charity. 
The few colonies were detached and scattered: there was no real 
scientific study of soil conditions nor anything pertaining to it; there 
was no system for training and absorbing new immigrants. On the 
other hand, in a few places, such as Merchavia, Ben Shemen and 
Hulda, there was reassuring evidence of the real type of Zionist 
enterprise that had always been envisaged. The Gymnasium (or High 
School) had been established in Jaffa, and the Bezalel School in 
Jerusalem. 

After his tour, Weizmann determined that, on his return to 
England, he would re-emphasize, in spite of all opposition, the need 
for immediate practical work in Palestine. But more than anything, 
he was wedded now to the idea of a Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 
It was an uphill struggle; it took years to produce any results. How- 
ever, in 1913, at the Eleventh Zionist Congress in Vienna, Weizmann 
was able to report progress. He told his audience that 'prominent 
Jewish scholars, neglected because of their race, suffering material 
and moral humiliations, would find a place where they could devote 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 101 

themselves to study as well as to their people. The Hebrew University 
would attract new forces to the country and contribution to its cultiva- 
tion and exploration. It would be our spiritual dreadnought and we 
could achieve with it greater successes than other peoples with their 
armies and navies. The only dignified reply to our being barred from 
other universities is the foundation of our own university.* 

Baron Edmond de Rothschild's support for the idea of a Hebrew 
University was promised one of the conditions being that Weiz- 
mann should get Professor Paul Ehrlich, then at the height of his 
scientific career in Germany and reputedly quite detached from 
Jewish matters, to head the committee. Eventually an interview was 
arranged and when he was finally able to steer the conversation in 
the direction he wanted, Weizmann spoke of the university. He 
gradually won the interest of Ehrlich, who after a while remarked 
that he had given Weizmann an hour of his time, while the corridors 
of his laboratory were filled with Counts, Princes and Ministers who 
would be grateful if he gave them only ten minutes. Weizmann 
replied: 'Yes, Professor, but the difference between me and your 
other visitors is that they came to receive an injection from you. I 
came here to give you one.' 

The outcome of the interview was that Ehrlich agreed to join the 
University Committee. The first meeting was arranged to take place 
in Paris on 4 August 1914, but the outbreak of the first World War 
decreed otherwise. 

The months before the outbreak of war also witnessed a bitter 
struggle between the German Jews and other Zionists, about the 
language of instruction at the Haifa Technicon, which had been estab- 
lished in 1913. After much conflict, the Hilfsverein der Deutschen 
Juden who had insisted on the use of German, withdrew its support 
from the schools; the Zionist Organization took over. This was to 
be the beginning of the Hebrew school system in Palestine. 

During the summer of 1914 there came the prologue to what might 
be called 'The Acetone Story'. In August of that year, Weizmann 
(who had just returned to Manchester from Switzerland) was among 
the many scientists asked by the War Office for information about 
any of their work that might have some military value. Weizmann 
immediately offered to put the details of his fermentation process at 
the disposal of the authorities. Shortly afterwards, the Chief Research 
Chemist of Nobel's (the explosive manufacturers) called at his labora- 
tory, together with other senior representatives of that organization. 
They offered to acquire Weizmann's process on very favourable 
terms for him; a contract was negotiated. Unfortunately, an explo- 
sion at the Nobel factory made it impossible for them to carry the 



102 I904-I9I4 

project further and Weizmann released them from their contract. 
Later Nobel brought his process to the notice of the British Govern- 
ment. This eventually led to Weizmann's interview with Winston 
Churchill (then First Lord of the Admiralty) who asked him if he 
could produce thirty thousand tons of acetone, urgently needed for 
the war effort. The story of Weizmann's response to that appeal is 
well known. Indeed, it has become almost a legend, so much so that 
it has often been assumed that the Balfour Declaration was granted 
almost automatically to Weizmann because of this service he had 
rendered. The myth was dispelled by Weizmann himself. In Trial 
and Error he writes, 'Actually, Lloyd George's advocacy of the 
Jewish homeland long predated his accession to the Premiership, and 
we had several meetings in the intervening years, as will be seen 
below.' 

In looking back on the 1904-1914 decade, it is interesting to recall 
the relationships that existed between Weizmann and some of the 
other outstanding Zionist personalities of that day. 

Ahad Ha'am, whom he first met during his student days in Berlin, 
had, from the beginning, been an inspiration to him. His own views 
on the false and illusory hopes of the assimilated Western Jews (and 
those of Germany in particular) were given added conviction by an 
essay written by Ahad Ha'am at that time, entitled 'Slavery in the 
Midst of Freedom'. 

The association continued spasmodically (Ahad Ha'am was Weiz- 
mann's senior by twenty years) and it was not really until 1905-6, 
when Ahad Ha'am came to live in London, that a warm friendship 
developed between the two men. Weizmann has recalled that 
although for economic reasons it was not easy for him to travel 
often from Manchester to London, he did so whenever he could. In 
Ahad Ha'am's company, he found comfort and solace from his own 
difficulties; he regarded him as friend, comrade, teacher and adviser. 

Shmarya Levin, too, had made a profound impression upon him. 
Later this developed into a deep affection and almost unbounded 
admiration a somewhat rare reaction in Weizmann, who was 
usually given to moderate and temperate assessment of people. 

These two personalities originally met at the Second and Third 
Zionist Congress, and subsequently visited the United States together 
on several occasions on Zionist propaganda meetings. Indeed, Weiz- 
mann records that these journeys together meant so much to him that 
when he had to go to the States after Levin's death 'he felt 
orphaned'. The style of Levin's oratory, with its brilliant application 
of biblical themes to current problems, his devastating wit (particu- 
larly in Yiddish) made a great appeal to Weizmann, who often 



THE MANCHESTER PERIOD 103 

quoted, with obvious pleasure and affection, some of the retorts Levin 
was famous for. In some ways, his own style of oratory, rich in Jewish 
parable, was similar to Levin's; he described him as a * great teacher 
and dazzling personality, as well as a sterling collaborator and warm- 
hearted friend'. 

Perhaps somewhat more complex was his relationship with 
Jabotinsky. I think it should be said that there has often been mis- 
understanding of Weizmann's attitude. However vehemently the two 
great personalities may especially in later years have disagreed in 
many issues, Weizmann had tremendous respect for Jabotinsky's sin- 
cerity and integrity, and a genuine sympathy for him in the dis- 
appointments that were to become such a tragic aspect of his Zionist 
life. The two men became close friends (a fact of which many of 
Weizmann's Zionist colleagues disapproved) and, indeed, for a time 
(during the early days of the first World War) shared rooms in a 
house in Chelsea. Weizmann then pleaded with Jabotinsky to under- 
take Zionist propaganda work, saying that it was in this field that his 
real genius would manifest itself. The suggestion met with a pained 
reaction; Jabotinsky was convinced that political work was his forte. 

So far as Ussishkin was concerned, while Weizmann had the 
highest respect for him, and though, on the whole, the relationship 
between the two men was amicable, they never quite attained the 
warm intimacy that developed with Levin and Ahad Ha'am. The 
same may also be said with regard to Nahum Sokolow, although, 
since the latter lived in England, and he and Weizmann worked 
together during those fateful years, they had more opportunity of 
developing an appreciation and understanding of each other's 
personality. 

Looking back now on Weizmann's emergence as the outstanding 
Zionist leader, we can see what extraordinary part in this develop- 
ment was played by the fact that he was able to stay, so to speak, on 
the sidelines in Manchester during the fateful decade that ended with 
the first World War. Without losing his intimate contact with the 
movement, his sojourn in Manchester enabled him to assess the 
changing world in better perspective than he could have done either 
in Berlin or Geneva. In Manchester, above all else, he had an oppor- 
tunity to withdraw and reflect. He was not constantly engaged as he 
had been when he left Geneva. 

But for this he had to pay a price. Weizmann was never certainly 
not during his Manchester period what we would now call an 
'organization man'. He was not the sort of man who could cultivate 
friendships for the sake of political benefits. He was no flatterer, and 
his intellectual preoccupations, his quick mind, and his intensely 



104 

Jewish wit, often gave the impression of either aloofness or intel- 
lectual arrogance. This was not so noticeable in his own milieu, but 
in Manchester it was liable to be observed. He was, moreover, not a 
man who sought friends. Friendships came naturally or not at all. He 
had his intimate circle among the Manchester Zionists, and he had 
his scientific friends. But outside their ranks he was respected and 
feared rather than loved. Like many other men of his calibre, he did 
not suffer fools, either gladly or silently. With men like Ahad Ha'am 
and Shmarya Levin he was at home and happy, and even with 
Jabotinsky, despite political differences, he found a common lan- 
guage. But the same was not true of dour men like Ussishkin or 
intellectuals like Sokolow. 

Nor, as his stature rose to become the foremost Zionist spokesman 
in England, was he lightly accepted by the Zionist leadership in 
Berlin. When in 1912, on Weizmann's insistence that talks should 
begin with British political personalities, it was decided to do so, it 
was not Weizmann who was entrusted with the mission, but Nahum 
Sokolow. And those who were with Weizmann at the Vienna Con- 
gress of 1913 well remember his lonely eminence. 

The first World War changed the lives of all mankind; it also flung 
the destinies of the Jewish people into a new channel. At a crucial 
moment Weizmann's scientific work and political activity fused with 
great brilliance and unprecedented historical appropriateness. Their 
product, the Belfour Declaration, gave Jewish history an unforget- 
table landmark. And it was Weizmann's sojourn in Manchester that 
may be considered its incubating-chamber. 

Mr Israel M. Sieff is prominent in British public life and the 
business world. He was one of Dr Weizmann's early associates 
after the latter settled in England. Secretary of the First Zionist 
Commission to Palestine in igiS. He is now Honorary President 
of the ^ionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. 



WEI^MANN AND SCIENCE 



CHAPTER FOUR 



CHAIM WEIZMANN AS BACTERIOLOGIST 



SELMAN A. WAKSMAN 



AS A BACTERIOLOGIST, Weizmann is known mainly for his work 
on the anaerobic fermentation of certain carbohydrates to give 
acetone and butyl alcohol. Although it was Pasteur who first demon- 
strated that butyl alcohol was a direct product of carbohydrate fer- 
mentation by specific butyric acid bacteria, Weizmann not only 
established the practicality of this process but also demonstrated that 
some of these bacteria produced acetone in addition to butyl alcohol. 
The idea of producing synthetic rubber by the polymerization of 
isoprene, a chemical substance that could be formed from isoamyl 
alcohol, which could be produced by direct bacterial fermentation, 
appealed strongly to certain chemists and bacteriologists. A British 
firm, Strange and Graham, Ltd, was led to engage in a comprehen- 
sive programme in this direction. A large group of eminent workers 
in the fields of chemistry and bacteriology was assembled to attack 
this problem. In addition to Weizmann, Perkin, Fernbach, and 
various others participated. The group did not hold together long. 
Weizmann left it in 1912 and engaged in his own research. He soon 
succeeded in isolating a starch-decomposing anaerobic organism, 
named Clostridium acetobutylicum Weizmann. This organism had 
the capacity to form both acetone and butanol, both important 
industrial solvents. At first acetone received most of the attention, as 
indicated above. But when the first World War came to an end, the 
need for n-butanol was greatly increased as a result of the growing 
automobile industry. 

The manufacture of acetone by the Weizmann process from corn 
and horse chestnuts was first described by Nathan in 1919. I can tell 
this story best by quoting Kelly 1 , who described this process in detail, 
especially the part played in its discovery by Dr Weizmann. 

*F. C. Kelly, The Growth of An Industry (Houghton Mifflin Co, New 
York, 1939). 

T<Y7 



I08 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

While an instructor at the University of Manchester, Weizmann 
had for several years been trying to produce a synthetic rubber. 
To do that on a practical scale he must have an adequate supply 
of certain ingredients, particularly a kind of alcohol called buta- 
nol, not then available commercially. This led him to experiment- 
ing on means for obtaining butanol by fermenting starch and 
sugar. To produce the fermentation he tried various kinds of 
bacteria. Weizmann did not have to look far to find bacteria for 
his experiments, inasmuch as they are contained in every clod of 
earth, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, and in every 
plant that grows though visible, of course, only under a strong 
microscope. It is estimated that under average conditions a pound 
of good soil contains from one hundred to two hundred and fifty 
billion bacteria. Under the microscope many of these bacteria look 
much alike even to a scientist; but scientists know that however 
much they may look alike, there are great differences in what they 
will do. After experimenting with many kinds, Weizmann found, 
on an ear of corn, bacteria having tastes and inclinations that did 
not occur in others. These came to have the scientific name of 
Clostridium acetobutylicum Weizmann, though they commonly 
go by the nickname of B-Y (the B for bacteria, and the Y for 
Weizmann). Clostridium means spindle-shaped; these bacteria 
have a habit of forming spindle-shaped clusters. 

After long, tedious tests, Weizmann discovered that when bac- 
teria of this particular kind were turned loose and left to their own 
devices in a kind of soup, or mash, of cooked corn, they caused it 
to ferment rapidly and changed it into a solution containing 
besides water butanol, acetone, and a little ethyl alcohol. There 
was three times as much acetone as alcohol and twice as much 
butanol as acetone. These three solvents could then be separated 
from one another in pure form by fairly simple distilling opera- 
tions. 

Weizmann could not obtain butanol by this bacterial means 
without also getting acetone and ethyl alcohol. His interest was 
only in butanol as a necessary raw material for his synthetic- 
rubber experiments. The British Government, on the other hand, 
was not concerned about butanol, nor about ethyl alcohol; but 
they did have a crying need for acetone, and they set to work to 
make use of Weizmann' s new bacterial fermentation process. The 
Ministry of Munitions adapted six distilleries in England to this 
purpose. Two of these were operating satisfactorily when it 
became evident that a shortage of grain would make it impossible 



GHAIM WEIZMANN AS BACTERIOLOGIST IOQ 

to carry on in England alone on a scale large enough to meet all 
requirements. The British then decided to install plants in India 
and Canada. The Indian factory was not completed until after 
the Armistice and was later sold to the Bombay Government for 
conversion into an ordinary alcohol distillery. In Toronto, Canada, 
however, a plant for making acetone by the Weizmann method 
was in successful operation for about two years before the war was 
ended. 

After the United States enlisted in the war, the British War 
Mission bought the plant of the Commercial Distillery at Terre 
Haute, Indiana, and remodelled it for use in making acetone by 
the Weizmann process. A little later, the United States Govern- 
ment bought the Majestic Distillery and the Allied War Board 
incorporated ownership of these two plants under the name of the 
Commercial Solvents Corporation of New York. 

What the above story fails to tell is that the 'Weizmann process' was 
one of the first bacterial processes utilized on a large scale for the 
production of an industrially important product. It is true that lactic 
acid, acetic acid, ethyl alcohol, citric acid, and certain other micro- 
biological processes were known and actually utilized on a large 
industrial scale, but none had served to revolutionize a whole indus- 
try as had that of Weizmann. It is one of the few important processes 
developed during the first World War that have resulted in great 
benefit to mankind. 

The work of Dr Weizmann on acetone and butyl alcohol fermenta- 
tion was immediately taken up by a number of different investigators. 
It is sufficient to mention the work of Dr H. B. Speakman in Canada 
(1919), of Dr G. C. Robinson (1922), and especially the extensive 
studies of the University of Wisconsin group headed by Professor 
E. B. Fred (McCoy et al., 1926; Peterson and Fred, 1932). In 1927, 
for example, Weyer and Rettger made a comprehensive study of six 
different strains of Cl. acetobutylicum. Storage of the spores for a 
period of six months apparently decreased the power of the culture 
to produce solvents. Rejuvenation of the cultures, by alternate pas- 
teurization and sub-culturing, and destruction of the vegetative forms 
and the weaker spores by pasteurization yielded vigorous strains for 
fermentation among the most active spore-formers. In this respect, 
Weyer and Rettger fully confirmed and enlarged upon the ideas of 
Weizmann, who had previously advocated heat for treating the 
spores of a bacterial culture 100 to 150 times to improve its ferment- 
ing ability. 



110 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

The actual part played by Dr Weizmann in the development of the 
butyl fermentation industry has been summarized, at my request, by 
Dr Fred of the University of Wisconsin. Dr Fred had an ideal oppor- 
tunity to know Dr Weizmann intimately, since it was he who, early 
in 1921, accepted the offer of the Commercial Solvents Company to 
help them in the development of the particular fermentation process 
(an offer I had once unwisely declined !) Dr Fred writes : 

There is no doubt whatsoever that Dr Weizmann's discovery of 
the butylclostridium, now called Clostridium acetobutylicum, was 
the foundation on which was built the whole industrial exploita- 
tion of the butyl alcohol fermentation. Others had known for 
nearly fifty years that certain clostridia could produce butyl 
alcohol but no commercially feasible process had been developed 
in spite of considerable effort in the few years preceding the Weiz- 
mann discovery. The Fernbach 1 process, although findings had 
seemed encouraging, had not been commercially successfully in a 
plant in England. And so the way was open to trial of a new 
organism; also the drastic need for acetone by the British in the 
first World War worked in favour of the Weizmann process, which 
was capable of 'large yields' of the solvents from a 'simple 3 mash 
of corn meal and water. Fortunately, the Weizmann organism was 
a naturally vigorous clostridium, able to grow in the plain corn 
mash because of its own proteolytic system and acid tolerance in 
the range of acids naturally produced in the fermentation. Hence 
it carried through the fermentation of corn 'unaided'. Dr Weiz- 
mann also, perhaps by chance, discovered the technic of heat 
shock to 90 C 100 C for one or two minutes at each sub- 
culture from the spore state. Probably there are several advantages 
in this procedure, such as driving out dissolved oxygen from the 
medium, killing the weaker non-sporulating strains in the popula- 
tion, etc. But it is very interesting that recent work has shown heat 
shock to be actually capable of inducing spore germination. 

Thus Dr Weizmann, in his heat shock process, had the key to : 
(a) growth of his anaerobe in an open vessel with protection from 
air at the surface of the medium; (b) avoidance of degeneration, 
which is serious with clostridia; and (c) controlled initiation of 
growth, which is so essential in handling commercial starter cul- 
tures. One can only marvel that Dr Weizmann, the pioneer in 
butyl fermentation, should have hit upon so much of the technique 
1 In 1924, when I visited Dr Fernbach at the Pasteur Institute, he told 
me the details of the two processes. He could never forgive Dr Weizmann 
for succeeding where he himself had failed. This was the main reason for 
Dr Fernbach's refusal to become interested in Zionism, as he told me then. 



CHAIM WEI2MANN AS BACTERIOLOGIST III 

needed to make the commercial fermentation successful, as it 
certainly was. 

Professor Fred spoke in glowing terms of Weizmann the man: 

My association with Dr Weizmann (began) in Terre Haute during 
1920-1921, working for Commercial Solvents . . . those were very 
busy days; often we worked all day and all night trying to find out 
what was wrong with the fermentation. We had a terrible time 
trying to overcome contamination and sluggish fermentation. 
When you go from the test tube to a 6o,ooo-gallon fermenter, you 
run into many problems as you well know. 

He paid a number of visits to Terre Haute, but never remained 
for more than a day or so. As you perhaps know, he was a fine 
specimen physically tall, handsome, and a very able speaker. 
While in Terre Haute, he kept all of us busy trying to protect him 
from the endless number of people . . . who all wanted to see him 
and have him give a lecture. 

Aside from some cursory correspondence, I met Dr Weizmann per- 
sonally only on one occasion, but it was a memorable one. Early in 
1938 I received several letters from Professor Adolf Reifenberg, of 
the Hebrew University, and from Dr Yehiel Thone, head of the 
Palestine Land Development Company, inviting me to come to the 
Holy Land and make a survey of the Huleh peat bog, to be followed 
by a study of the peat itself. I was at that time engaged in a detailed 
study of various types of humus, and had had considerable experience 
with the nature of different peats throughout the world. I there- 
fore welcomed the opportunity to examine the peat areas of the 
ancient bog in Palestine, known in biblical times as the Springs of 
Meron. 

My visit to the Huleh resulted not only in the gain of considerable 
information on the depth and nature of the peat, but also in the 
creation of a desire for a more detailed study of the agricultural 
utilization of the peat. Subsequently, a large quantity of the peat was 
collected and sent to my laboratory in New Brunswick, where I com- 
pleted my studies on it early in 1942. When I submitted my report 
to Dr Thone, however, I was asked not to publish anything about 
it until further consideration. 

Dr E. D. Bergmann, a close associate of Dr Weizmann, came to see 
me in 1944 to discuss the nature and utilization of the Huleh peat. 
He also brought me an invitation from Dr Weizmann, who was at 
that time visiting New York, to come to see him in order to discuss 
an important problem. 



112 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

On the appointed day, Dr Weizmann received me very cordially 
and invited me to have tea with him. After certain introductory re- 
marks, notably pertaining to the utilization of the Huleh peat, he 
asked me rather bluntly: * Would you be willing, when the land of 
Israel becomes a reality, to leave the USA and come to Israel to 
become a Director of the Experiment Station at Rehovoth?' 

With all my desire to help in the development of a * homeland 5 for 
my people, I could not even consider this invitation for two important 
reasons: i Although I studied in an agricultural institution and was 
connected for nearly three decades with an agricultural experiment 
station, I was concerned but little with practical agricultural prob- 
lems, my work being entirely theoretical (soil, water, industrial micro- 
biology) in nature. How could I attempt to direct an organization 
that would require the ultimate in a knowledge of practical agricul- 
ture? 2 My studies of antibiotics were reaching their zenith at that 
time; streptomycin recently had been isolated in my laboratory, 
several other antibiotics were waiting to be studied; all this required 
my undivided attention. At that time I could hardly leave this work, 
which was the culminating point of my career, and go off into a new 
field of endeavour, especially one in which I had only limited 
knowledge. 

I told all this and much more to Dr Weizmann. He smiled and 
said: 'Well, how about microbiology? Don't you think this is a 
science that should be developed in our new country? Both you and 
I have had much interest in this field. You should come to help 
develop this field. In a land so devoid of natural resources, this field 
would offer new resources.' To this I replied that, although I was in 
full agreement with him concerning the potentialities in micro- 
biology, we had better wait until the whole level of science and indus- 
try in Israel had been raised before we began to think and plan for a 
centre or at least for a group of workers devoted to this particular 
science. Weizmann agreed to this and added: In that case, do you 
promise me that when the times comes, you will come to Israel and 
help us in establishing such a centre or organize a group of young 
microbiologists?' This I promised. 

Several years passed before another opportunity to talk with Dr 
Weizmann presented itself. I went to Israel again in 1952. Un- 
fortunately, as we came to Dr Weizmann's home in Rehovoth, we 
found him on his sick bed, from which he was never to rise again. 
Then, I was not yet ready to fulfil my promise to Dr Weizmann, for I 
had come only to participate in a discussion of the need for an Anti- 
biotic Centre in Israel. But perhaps this might have been the begin- 
ning of a real microbiological centre. How much I missed Dr 



CHAIM WEI2MANN AS BACTERIOLOGIST 113 

Weizmann's counsel and support! I still live in the hope that I may 
help in some way to bring this about so that my promise to him may 
finally be fulfilled. 

Professor Selman Waksman is Professor Emeritus (Microbiology) 
at Rutgers State University, in New Brunswick, N.J., USA. He is 
a Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine (1952). 



CHAPTER FIVE 



THE SECRET OF LIFE 



RITCHIE CALDER 



IN THE simple religion of the jungle Dyaks of Borneo there is no 
'Hereafter'. There is, however, a touching belief which can be trans- 
lated as 'To be remembered'. In his last hours, the mortal must have 
around him his kinsmen and his friends. He bequeaths his last breath 
to them and as long as they remember him he will live on. 

Chaim Weizmann has many titles to immortality but one of the 
highest is that which, like the Persian Emperor Darius, he might have 
conferred upon himself e Friend of my Friends'. In his last years 
when, in the fickleness and jealousies of politics, there were those who 
grudged him even his place in history, those friends gathered around 
him and encircled him with the enduring proofs of their friendship. 

He could look out from his study window and see their personal 
devotion taking shape as the buildings of the Weizmann Institute. It 
is given to few men to read, in their life-time, such a magnificent and 
affectionate obituary written in stone. 

Like a dying Dyak, Weizmann bequeathed his last breath to his 
friends, because by their foresight he was able to breathe into that 
masonry a living purpose. He whispered to it the Secret of Life. 

It has been suggested that the Institute was e Weizmann' s philosophy 
embodied in stone'. That sounds fine but it is not true, because it 
implies too much and too little. It suggests that the Institute has 
spelled out something which he had clearly in mind but, as he would 
have been the first to protest, this is an over-simplification. Moreover, 
it diminishes the devotion of friends and followers who, with an 
extraordinary insight, have given effect to his inspiration in ways he 
could never have predicted. 

The over-simplification is excusable because it is easy, by hindsight, 
to make everything fit into a consistent pattern. (I know, because I 
had to have such a pattern for The Hand of Life, the account of the 
first ten years at the Institute.) Nevertheless, while his influence still 



THE SECRET OF LIFE 115 

pervades the Institute and while the purpose and guide-lines he pro- 
vided are evident, it has, like a child growing from infancy, through 
adolescence, into adulthood, assumed its own character. 

This would have pleased Weizmann. He once said, * I am a chemist. 
I am not an authority on evolution but I imagine that evolution 
means a compromise between something which is rigid and static and 
something which is flexible and dynamic.' He might have (and his 
friends would have respected his wishes) decided the pattern, rigid 
and static, embodying his own direct scientific interests. He did not; 
he left it to the dynamics of evolution to grow, organically in the 
climate of twentieth-century science. There is no rubric, no scientific 
liturgy, which one can quote and say 'Weizmann said it shall be so'. 
There have been times in the still-short history of the Institute 
when a posthumous 'Weizmann veto' has been invoked but the 
evolutionary principle has prevailed in the spirit, not the letter, of his 
intentions. 

The Weizmann Institute might have embodied Weizmann as the 
chemist. Instead it is fulfilling him as a scientist. 

Much that it has become, or is becoming, he himself could not 
have foreseen, because science is developing quickly, and in directions 
which were not self-evident when he died in 1952. Yet the latest 
developments are a mutation of his own career-interests, as an 
organic chemist and as a microbiologist as the man who put micro- 
organisms to work as industrial chemists. The Institute, through its 
own process of evolution, is moving into the chemistry of evolution 
itself into the 'life sciences' through molecular biology. This is the 
quest for the chemical and physical secret of life itself. 

As in so many circumstances in Weizmann's life, there was, in the 
beginning of the Institute, a sense of destiny. It began with tragedy. 
A young student died, the son of Israel and Rebecca Sieff and the 
nephew of Simon, now Lord Marks. In their hour of grief, his family 
turned to one whom they had always found to be a source of comfort 
and of wisdom. They had known him when he was a lecturer at 
Manchester, where he had combined his researches and his teaching 
with his intensive activities for the Jewish people. And there had 
grown up between them a mutual friendship which was unstinting 
and exacting. 

Typically, Weizmann, when they turned to him for consolation, 
took them for a walk among the trees of Hyde Park. They talked of 
death but around them life was burgeoning. They discussed the boy 
and what he had hoped to become. He had been interested in science 
and had wanted to make it his career. With the vision and sensi- 



Il6 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

tivity that was Weizmann's enduring quality, he made a suggestion: 
The Nazi persecutions had already begun persecutions that were to 
reach the climax of horror ten years later. Eminent Jewish scientists 
were being hounded out of their laboratories and Weizmann pro- 
posed that in Daniel Sieff 's memory a science institute should be set 
up in Palestine. Weizmann saw, in such an institute, a sanctuary for 
many of the scientific refugees. But he also foresaw a research centre 
which would serve the needs of the country and at the same time 
form part of the world community of science. He had ideas, too, 
about the ways in which such an institute could help to break down 
the walls which fenced off one section of knowledge from another. 

He did not offer his friends just words of comfort; he gave them a 
purpose to serve: In memorializing Daniel Sieff they would serve 
science as the boy had hoped to serve it; they would offer hope to 
the despairing; and they would benefit the Jewish Homeland. 

They endowed the Daniel Sieff Institute and, in 1934, it was built 
in the sandy wastes, then called the 'Gateway to the Negev', the 
desert of the South. Weizmann chose the site, and it seemed a strange 
choice, for this was desolation, a landscape without a tree or a blade 
of grass. Some suggested that Weizmann was being perverse and that 
the Institute should have joined the Hebrew University on Mount 
Scopus at Jerusalem. 

Weizmann, however, was never capricious. He had two justifica- 
tions for suggesting this site: one was historical, the other was 
immediate and practical. In AD 70, when the Romans were besieging 
Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple and the dispersal of the 
Jews were imminent, Rabbi Yohanan persuaded the Roman com- 
mander to withdraw from the Judaean Hills to the coastal plains and 
to establish a school of learning at Yavne. For 2,000 years the 
Jews in their wanderings had cried, 'Give us Yavne and its sages.' 
The site at Rehovoth adjoined Yavne. The other reason was that 
the Agricultural Research Station already existed there. In a country 
where not only food but industrial prosperity would have to be 
wrested from the neglected and reluctant soil, Weizmann saw a part- 
nership, between the fundamental research the Institute might carry 
out and the practical needs of the farmers. He foresaw the chemists' 
being able to derive, from agriculture, the chemical materials for the 
industries Palestine still lacked. 

The Sieff Institute was opened on 3 April 1934 by Richard Will- 
statter, the pioneering chemist who was so great a personality and 
warm-hearted a man. Over the gates of the Institute were written 
'Work for this country. Work for Science. Work for Humanity', 
And it is worth recalling Willstatter's advice to the scientists on that 



THE SECRET OF LIFE 117 

occasion : 'Seek not to multiply your work, nor to write many papers. 
Non multa multum. I ask the people of this country: have faith in 
this Institute; do not expect showy or speedy results. The members 
of this Institute must work as free researchers, furnished with fully 
adequate means, in an atmosphere of absolute confidence.' That 
might have been Weizmann himself speaking but then again, of 
course, these are the sentiments of any thoughtful scientist. 

The Daniel Sieff Institute provided Weizmann himself with research 
facilities so that he could transfer some of his scientific work to the 
Jewish Homeland. There he could have his laboratory and there he 
planned to have his home. In 1934 he and his wife lived in a little 
rented bungalow and he used to go every morning to the Institute, 
extending his own researches and following the work of his col- 
leagues, some of whom, as he had intended, were first-class scientists 
from Germany. This scientific idyll was interrupted when he was re- 
elected President of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish 
Agency in 1935. From then on it became his retreat, where he could 
find respite from his arduous missions as the Ambassador of Zionism 
in the chancelleries and cabinet rooms of the great Powers. 

This ambivalence of statesman and scientist, had, of course, 
characterized Weizmann's whole life. His reputation as a scientist 
was indestructible. He was not only a university scientist, but an 
industrial innovator. His discovery, in Manchester before the first 
World War, of a bacterium that could convert sugar and starch into 
acetone and butyl alcohol profoundly affected our industrial civiliza- 
tion. He proved not only that 'bugs are cheaper than B.ScY in 
laboratory experiments but that a bacterium could be used as a 
machine tool in the large-scale production of industrial chemicals. 
Indeed it was more fundamental than that because it provided a way 
of extracting chemicals from the sun : the growing plant absorbs the 
energy of the sun and uses it to convert the elements of the air, water 
and soil into carbohydrates the sugars and starches. Weizmann's 
bacterial methods recovered that energy (in the case of acetone) as 
an explosive force. 

His discovery was of critical importance during the first World 
War when Britain's munitions shortage was threatening defeat. His 
process made it possible to produce the acetone necessary for smoke- 
less gunpowder. His bacteria could digest grain or chestnuts and yield 
acetone for the guns of Flanders. Similarly, in the second World War, 
he made an important contribution to the American war effort 
because his fermentation processes made butyl alcohol available as a 
source-material of synthetic rubber. 



Il8 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

These interventions were historic but his work affected many other 
fields as well. Less well known, at least to the public, was the role 
he played, through 'Blitz Broth 5 , in helping to feed the shelter- 
population in the air raids on Britain. There was a shortage of pro- 
tein, which is necessary to build and maintain the tissues of the body 
and which in food-affluent societies can be provided by milk, meat or 
eggs. In that case the vegetable proteins since all nutriment derives 
initially from plants have been pre-digested and converted by the 
intermediate animals. Much vegetable matter goes to waste because 
the human digestive system and the chemistry of the body cannot 
effectively break down the vegetable matter and make constituent 
chemicals available for body-building. Weizmann discovered an 
agent that could provide this intermediate stage: it was a yeast cell. 
Yeast, a micro-organism, could feed on the vegetable matter and 
then could be 'plasmolysed' 'milked' of the liquid contents of its 
cells. This provided a substitute for meat. A soup, reinforced by 
Weizmann's yeast protein, was produced for the people in the shelters, 
many of whom came back hungry from work to their refuges and left 
them to face another day's work. 'Blitz Broth', with a hunk of brown 
bread, could sustain them. When the paratroopers were dropped for 
the liberation of Europe, their iron ration was this same 'Blitz Broth'. 

It is easy to romanticize, as Lloyd George himself did, the part that 
Weizmann's notable scientific achievements played in the realization 
of his Zionist aims and of the creation of the Jewish Homeland in 
Palestine. With a tidiness that is never true in history, one might say 
that acetone in the first World War won the Balfour Declaration 
and that butyl alcohol, in the second World War, ensured the US 
recognition of the State of Israel. Weizmann himself, knowing the 
laborious years, the betrayals, and the cruel disappointments in the 
political struggles for Zionism, resented this strip-cartoon version of 
history. Once, when with journalist glibness I described Israel as 'a 
state founded on science', he demurred. It can be', he said, 'but it 
was not.' 

Nevertheless (metaphorically) with his diplomatic top hat, he wore 
the white overall of the scientist. His credentials as a chemist were 
the visiting-card which opened many, and some unexpected doors 
to him- Reading his own, and others' accounts, one sees how the two 
personalities, the burning zealot and the cool chemist, were com- 
pounded to produce enduring impressions on those he met. 

Men who make history like to take liberties with it. They are 
impresarios who accommodate dates and events, and even the 
' to scenes of their own setting. Lloyd George was 



THE SECRET OF LIFE Iig 

such a one and Weizmann had wry comments to make on the colour- 
ful description (in the War Memoirs of Lloyd George) of how e Dr 
Weizmann with his discovery not only helped us to win the war, but 
made a permanent mark upon the map of the world'. 

Weizmann has corrected this record. 'His narrative', wrote Weiz- 
mann in Trial and Error, 'makes it appear that the Balfour Declara- 
tion was a reward given me by the Government, when Lloyd George 
became Prime Minister, for my services to England. I almost wish 
that it had been as simple as that and that I had never known the 
heartbreaks, the drudgery and the uncertainties which preceded the 
Declaration. But history does not deal in Aladdin's lamps. 5 

Similarly the glamourized versions of the chemist's influence on the 
political attitudes of the United States, were discounted by Weiz- 
mann. Nevertheless it was his scientific work, as he admitted, which 
gave him his first access to President Roosevelt. It was his butyl 
alcohol process which appealed to Mr Henry A. Wallace, the vice- 
president who was in the throes of a distasteful and indeed disreput- 
able struggle with the oil interests that controlled the source material 
of synthetic rubber. Wallace later wrote 'The world will never know 
what a significant contribution Weizmann made towards the success 
of the synthetic rubber programme at a time when it was badly 
bogged down and going too slowly.' 

The truth is that the statesman and the scientist were the two 
strands in the thread of one personality and that they had both been 
woven into the fabric of history. 

At a fateful meeting at which, with his forceful arguments, Weiz- 
mann had voiced the claims of his people, Lloyd George said in an 
aside to Herbert Samuel, 'When you and I are forgotten, this man 
will have a monument to him in Palestine.' When this was repeated 
to Weizmann his comment was, 'Should anyone ever take a fancy to 
put up a monument to me, I hope he will be told that Palestine is the 
only place where I should like to have it.' 

In his own lifetime, Weizmann saw that monument taking at least 
one shape in the Weizmann Institute of Science. 

It all began in anticipation of his yoth birthday, 27 November 1944. 
The war was still on. The State of Israel, as events were to prove, 
had still to be born in blood and sacrifice. But 'The Chief was going 
to have a birthday, a Psalmist's three-score years and ten, and some 
of his multitude of friends decided that he should have a gift worthy 
of the occasion. They tried to find out what he would want and, in 
the same self-abnegation of his reply to Lloyd George about a king's 
honour, he said, 'For myself, I need and want nothing, but if you 



120 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

wish you may do something for the expansion of the Sieff Institute.' 

The Sieff Institute had already established for itself a sober reputa- 
tion in the scientific world. It had attracted able scientists and its 
researches and published works commanded respect. It had not 
become, as it might have, Weizmann's private laboratory, dominated 
by his special interests. These were wide enough because they had 
taken him from classical organic chemistry into microbiology and the 
experimental and industrial use of bacteria; into physical chemistry 
and the study of how elemental atoms are bound ^together by ^elec- 
trical forces to form molecules; into polymer chemistry, which is the 
linking of molecules into complex structures such as proteins or 
plastics; and into bio-chemistry which is the subtle synthesis of 
chemical in the living 'factory' of the plant or human body. All these 
had been reflected in the work of the Institute but their range had 
been extended by independent and diversified fields of scientific 
inquiry by his colleagues at the Daniel Sieff Institute. 

They had also demonstrated, as he had intended that they should, 
that research had a relevance to the needs of Palestine. During the 
war, the isolation of the Middle East from supplies of pharmaceuti- 
cals had set the Sieff scientists looking for source materials in the 
indigenous plants of Palestine so that (when it came) the State of 
Israel had a vigorous pharmaceutical industry. And a great deal of 
fundamental work had been done, with promising avenues to be 
further explored. 

Perhaps this was what Weizmann had in mind when he suggested 
the expansion of the Sieff Institute an increase in facilities so that 
good work could be done better and advances encouraged. But his 
American friends, who were the initiators of the idea of a birthday 
gift, once they knew that 'The Chief had opted for science, had 
more ambitious intentions. They had an original target of a million 
dollars and they wanted an institute which would be identified, by 
name, with Weizmann. This raised a delicate question: after all, the 
Daniel Sieff Institute had been endowed by the British Marks-Sieff 
family, although it had had active supporters in the United ^ States. 
Meyer Weisgal was given the job of sounding out the family. He 
approached Israel Sieff to get his reactions to the new proposition, in 
which the Sieff Institute would become a unit in the Weizmann Insti- 
tute. There was no argument about that; Israel Sieff had only one 
criticism 'A million? Why not five?' And the thinking and 
generosity has been on that scale ever since. 

To say that the friends who accepted this scientific mandate from 
'The Chief knew nothing about science is not derogatory.^ The 
American Committee formed to further the interests of the Institute 



THE SECRET OF LIFE 121 

consisted of men of affairs, many of whom had been interested in the 
Sieff Institute. They called in Meyer Weisgal to organize the appeal. 
A devoted friend of Weizmann in all his Zionist struggles, he was a 
journalist, turned impresario; science to him (at that point in any 
case) was a sp.ectacular that he was prepared to stage as he had once 
done The Eternal Road. They could recruit, as they did, a Planning 
Committee of distinguished scientists but their function, in the first 
instance, was to house Weizmann's wishes. 

A research institute is not just an architect's drawing, nor the flow- 
sheet, nor the blue-print, of a business enterprise. The Weizmann 
Institute was unique in its origins, inspired in its conception, and, 
itself, provides a laboratory study of the nature and growth of re- 
search. One might say that it expresses the personality of Weizmann 
rather than his philosophy because 'philosophy 3 suggests definitions 
and clear intentions. In the Weizmann Institute these were never 
really defined and would, indeed, be undefmable. 

On the white Galilean marble of the amphitheatre, which adjoins 
his grave on the hilltop overlooking the Institute, the article of his 
scientific faith is inscribed : 

I feel sure that science will bring to this land both peace and a 
renewal of its youth, creating here the springs of a new spiritual 
and material life. I speak of science for its own sake and applied 
science. 

Weizmann believed in 'pure' science, in the sense of academic re- 
search, curiosity and the quest for knowledge uninhibited by any 
immediate compulsions to produce practical results. In this sense 
science is like the unpredictable rains that replenish the springs. As 
Weizmann demonstrated in his own career as a chemist this does not 
mean that 'pure' science is an end in itself; the springs provide the 
wells from which human needs are met. But science to him was some- 
thing more than gadgets or products; it was the environment modern 
culture must grow in. He wanted a scientific sanctuary in which 
research workers could think and work and experiment without 
pressures; but he did not want them, or the Institute, to be com- 
pletely withdrawn from the lives of the people. 

The conflict between 'pure' and 'applied' science has persisted for 
a very long time. It goes back to Plato and his attitude to Exodus 
and Archytas, when by experiments and recourse to instruments, they 
solved problems which the theorists considered insoluble. Plutarch 
described that quarrel: 

Plato inveighed against them with great indignation, as having 

corrupted and debased the excellence of geometry, by causing her 



122 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

to descend from incorporeal and intellectual to sensible things, 
and obliging her to make use of matter, which requires much 
manual labour, and is the object of servile trades; then mechanics 
were separated from geometry . . . being a long time despised by 
the philosopher . . . 

Tor a long time' meant over 2,000 years, during which Plato's en- 
thronement of theory over practice continued to tyrannize Western 
thinking. 

When, as has happened periodically, there are debates as to 
whether the Weizmann Institute should undertake teaching or should 
turn to researches that show practical possibilities, to commercial 
purposes, Weizmann can be invoked both for and against. He did 
remove the Institute, in its origins, from proximity to the Hebrew 
University of which, as a teaching institution, he had laid the corner- 
stone on Mount Scopus, but he put it next door to the Agricultural 
Research Institute so that scientists would not forget that there were 
practical applications as well. These debates have been resolved with 
the pragmatism he himself would have applied. 

He insisted that it must, as an institute of true science, be truly 
international, and he recognized that because of its remoteness, 
geographically, from kindred institutions, it had to be scientifically 
viable while keeping open its lines of communication with the rest of 
science throughout the world. 

Between its conception in 1 944 and its birth in 1 949, another factor 
profoundly influenced the character of the Institute; this was the 
creation of the State of Israel. From being an outpost of experimental 
science in the Middle East it became a research centre in a new state, 
and the change carried with it new responsibilities. In an embattled 
country struggling to survive, basic research the indulgence of 
scientific curiosity would, in the short term, be regarded as a luxury 
and an irrelevance. There are wholly understandable pressures, both 
direct and indirect, to put the priorities of the country before the 
international aspects of science. There are the sanctions of public 
opinion, which distrusts scientific hedonism, but there is also a feeling 
among some of the scientists that in the country's time of difficulties 
they ought to be out digging ditches. This conflict of loyalties to 
Israel or to the Commonwealth of science can never be fully re- 
solved but the people of Israel and the patriotic scientist must realize 
that in the long term the status of the Weizmann's Institute as a world 
centre of science, will be one of the country's greatest assets. It will 
make the difference between science as a flourishing plant with roots 
and borrowed know-how, which is like a cut flower, which withers. 



THE SECRET OF LIFE 123 

Weizmann never concealed his disappointment that the Daniel 
Sieff Institute had failed to provide a refuge, as he had hoped it 
would, for the eminent victims of Nazism like the Nobel Prize 
winners Fritz Haber and Willstatter. The first was responsible for one 
of the greatest technical successes of the age, or of any age the con- 
version of nitrogen of the air into ammonia and nitric acid. These 
two chemicals are necessary for the making of explosives and also for 
artificial fertilizers that inevitable contradiction of science, to 
destroy or to benefit mankind. He had become a Christian but it did 
not save him from Nazi persecution. He was stripped of his academic 
position, of his fortune and his honours. Weizmann offered him the 
sanctuary of the Sieff 'The climate will be good for you. You will 
find a modern laboratory and able assistants. You will work in peace 
and with honour It will be a return home for you your journey's 
end.' He agreed and set out for Palestine but was taken ill at Basle 
and died there. But he bequeathed his library to the Sieff Institute. 
Willstatter presided at the opening of the Institute but resisted all the 
entreaties that he should become its director. Instead, he stayed on 
to suffer humiliations in Germany until war broke out in 1939. Then 
he was expelled and he found two rooms in which to live in Switzer- 
land where he died toward the end of the war. Weizmann also failed 
to persuade Albert Einstein, James Franck, Hermann Weyd, Placzek, 
Wiegener and many other famous refugees. They chose the West 
rather than Palestine. 

(In their defence, there is the argument that the scientist is a citizen 
of the world. When Peter Kapitza, the Russian scientist who was one 
of Lord Rutherford's most brilliant and favoured associates at Cam- 
bridge, went back to the USSR on holiday and was 'retained', 
Rutherford swallowed his bitterness. He said, e A scientist can work 
anywhere if he has the means,' and shipped to Moscow the equip- 
ment of the laboratory he had had specially built for Kapitza.) 

Some may have hoped to turn the Weizmann Institute into a living 
Pantheon for the already famous and to attract to it the great Jewish 
scientists and Nobel Prize winners. Efforts were undoubtedly made 
but, as in Weizmann's experience of the I93o's, while many were 
prepared to identify themselves with it they would not go there to 
live and to work. Weizmann may have been disappointed but he did 
not repine. Instead he took a large part in selecting the scientific heirs 
to his ideas and he opted for youth. The Institute attracted a remark- 
able group of young scientists, both native-born and from abroad. 
History will prove its good fortune in not becoming a retreat for 
venerable scientists. It has made and is making its own reputation on 
the reputations of the young. 



124 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

The Institute has developed quite unpredictably. It has grown 
around, but also away from the Daniel Sieff Institute. The 'some- 
thing 5 that might have expanded the Sieff Institute might have been, 
like the scientific workshop that makes the Institute largely self- 
sufficient, merely an elaboration of scientific services. Weizmann's 
own research interests demanded spectroscopy, X-ray crystal- 
lography, radio isotopes, biochemical and biological assay, mathe- 
matical physics, and other modern refinements. But these, at 
Rehovoth, from being services, have become fundamental researches 
disciplines in their own right. The Sieff Institute was concerned 
with the chemicals that produce cancer as well as with those that 
might stop it, but the international distinction of the Weizmann 
Institute lies in its basic studies of the nature of cancer itself. Weiz- 
mann used his yeast cells to break down proteins into amino-acids, 
but his successors have taken a world-lead in artificially creating 
amino-acids. He saw, and rightly, that plastics could provide the 
industrial materials which Israel lacked. These polymers are familiar 
as teacups and table-tops, as nylons and handbags, as pipes or as the 
gear wheels of industry. The Institute which bears his name, how- 
ever, pioneered the fundamental research into quite different 
polymers, which can change desert sand into soil, take salt out of 
water or explain the subtle processes of the living body. A laboratory 
of nuclear science might not have been in Weizmann's birthday pros- 
pectus but the work which has been done there has commanded the 
attention of nuclear physicists throughout the world. 

Even in the 1930'$, Weizmann had established the principle of 
coming-and-going. He insisted that the research workers at the Sieff 
Institute should not feel themselves isolated; that they should move 
about the world and that distinguished scientists should be en- 
couraged to visit and reinvigorate research at Rehovoth. This prin- 
ciple is even more important today because an institute for which 
Weizmann recruited youth must remain perennially young. There 
has to be replenishment by new youthful talent and by new ideas. A 
research institute of this kind therefore must be a kind of cistern with 
talent flowing in and out and this has been made possible by enabling 
the Weizmann scientists to travel, to act as visiting professors in over- 
seas institutions and to carry on their work in other laboratories. 
These are Francis Bacon's 'Merchants of Light 5 who (in New Atlan- 
tis) maintained a trade 'not for gold, silver or jewels, nor for silks, nor 
for spices, nor for any other commodity of matter ; but only for God 5 s 
first creature, which was light; to have light of the growth of all parts 
of the world. . . .' And so the Weizmann Institute has become an 
entrepot of science in the Middle East. 



THE SECRET OF LIFE 125 

Weizmann provided for his Institute, therefore, not a blue-print 
but an inspiration. He gave it not a tradition, but a lack of inhibition. 
He did not try to create its science in his own image but left it to 
grow by its own mutations. He bequeathed his breath and those 
friends who remembered him took the intangible and, with instinct 
and generosity, made it real. 

There is a sense of his fulfilment in the new developments of the 
Institute, in the setting up of the Institute of Life Sciences in which 
many disciplines, including his own of organic chemistry, are com- 
bining to plumb the living processes and to discover, in physical and 
chemical terms, The Secret of Life. 

Professor Peter Ritchie Calder is Montague Burton Professor of 
International Relations at Edinburgh University. He has written 
many works on science and history, including the best-selling The 
Inheritors (US title After the Seventh Day). 



CHAPTER SIX 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 



AHARON KATZIR-KATCHALSKY 



IN HIS BOOK, The Aims of Education., Whitehead says: In training 
a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of 
what I call "inert ideas" that is to say ideas that one merely received 
into the mind without being utilised, or tested, or thrown into fresh 
combinations.' 

The importance of training on the basis of a living example is 
well known from everyday life. It is clear that mere logical under- 
standing and intellectual conviction do not give the student an 
executive capacity. Nobody can learn to play the piano by mastering 
the logical principles of composition or harmony. It is the operational 
method that leads the student to an acquisition of the technique of 
music. 

The teaching of moral behaviour belongs to the same class. Decent 
human behaviour is not acquired by learning the principles of 
sociology or by studying the moral systems of different societies. Only 
through the practice of a certain set of moral rules, as demonstrated 
by living examples, do we acquire our moral behaviour. In this field 
a few chosen people whose life-work sets a standard for human 
behaviour can serve as a prototype for the education of the young. 
These people do not deal only with pure philosophical ideas, the 
riddles of the universe, or the harmonious structures of being, but 
encompass the whole pattern of human life, the innumerable human 
relations in the complicated ensemble of interactions between one 
social group and another. 

The subject matter with which such men deal is so complicated, 
it requires such a fine intuitive orientation in an undefined and 
unknown world, that their emergence is very rare, and their imprint 
on the development of society is generally profound and enduring. 
What these people create is not just a philosophical structure based 
on a logical sequence of ideas; it is their life-work itself, the sequence 

126 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 127 

of their actions that is summed up in the form of an operational 
philosophy. 

Weizmann was such a spiritual leader. His life-work is a prototype 
from which one can learn today and whose value is becoming clearer 
with the passage of time. 

He himself recognized the educational significance of a man's 
life-work. In his lecture at the Tribune Forum on 21 October 
1947, he said the following: c . . . The Jewish contribution to human 
values, wherever the Jew has been true to his character, has issued 
from 'being.' Among Jews the notion of a philosopher who taught 
one system and lived according to another, who divorced himself 
from his theories, has always been unthinkable. A man was not con- 
sidered a teacher merely because he was clever. If what he said was 
not in keeping with the way he lived, and if the two together did not 
constitute an example, he could not be a teacher. For, it was argued, 
if he cannot teach himself, how can he teach others ?' 

Spiritual leaders who become ideal prototypes of human behaviour 
are typically mature personalities. They overcome the narcistic 
tendency of creating for themselves an infantile closed world in which 
their fantasy is allowed full play. They fulfil the basic requirement 
of maturity; they forego the pleasures of children's dreams and are 
ready to grapple with reality directly. They recognize the limitations 
of the real world and the restrictions of human life. They do not rely 
on miracles but try to make the best of the possibilities presented by 
a real world. Weizmann, who was a scientist to the marrow, clearly 
recognized that the lawfulness of the universe and human life is a 
set of restrictions. He knew, however, that it is only within the limits 
of restriction that freedom becomes meaningful. It is not the attempt 
to forget the limitations imposed by natural order that makes men 
free, but the other way round the recognition of law is the basis of 
free and purposeful human action. 

This mature view of freedom made Weizmann the typical man of 
vision. While the man of fantasy builds castles in the air that satisfy 
his inner wishes but bear no relation to reality, the activity of the 
visionary is an expression of a creative imagination based on the 
recognition of the limitations imposed by nature or society and on 
the intuitive perception of the dynamic forces bringing about future 
developments. 

While the immature person given to fantasy is subject to moods of 
depression whenever his petty constructions encounter the impact of 
external facts and his infantile ideas fail to materialize, the visionary 
whose actions are based on reality is not generally subject to fits of 
pessimism and usually has an optimistic outlook on life. It was the 



128 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

mature optimism of Weizmann's vision, the intelligent, balanced 
appreciation of the social reality of the twentieth century, and the 
free imaginative choice within the limitations of constructive evolu- 
tion that made him the leader of the Jewish people and the outstand- 
ing model for the education of the present generation. 

The legacy of great spiritual leaders is subject to a crucial experi- 
mental test the test of historical survival. Only those whose life-work 
and example express the profound experience of mankind and whose 
vision represents the fundamental needs and urges of numerous 
people are remembered by history. 

On a historical scale the ten years that have passed since Weiz- 
mann's death are a very short period. However, in view of the break- 
neck pace of modern social and technological change, ten years may 
be regarded as a relatively long historical era. During these ten years 
the amount of human knowledge has doubled, the technical changes 
in industry and agriculture have revolutionized the economic and 
social structure, and modern means of communication have brought 
the world into every home. Man slowly begins to feel himself not 
only a citizen of the globe but an inhabitant of the solar system as a 
whole. The flood of information is so overwhelming that events which 
only a short time ago made headlines have been entirely erased from 
our memory. Politicians who only yesterday 'made history' have 
fallen into oblivion, and it is only the handful that have influenced 
the more profound layers of the human soul whose imprint continues 
to be felt today. 

Weizmann's life-philosophy has left such a strong and perma- 
nent impression on the Jewish people and the State of Israel, its 
reflection in the international mind is still so strong, that even now, 
ten years after his death, letters continue to be addressed to the late 
President of the State and he is still accused by his opponents for 
many activities of the State. Weizmann's permanent living legacy 
invites a painstaking analysis. Such analysis, however, faces the great 
difficulty that Weizmann's heritage does not consist of books or 
articles summarizing a clear-cut philosophy. It is not only that more 
pressing obligations prevented him from devoting enough time for 
leisurely contemplation, but as a man of science he always resented a 
dogmatic Weltanschau that would distort his direct contact with 
reality. 

If one can speak at all about Weizmann's philosophy, it was by 
and large an operational method, using an open-minded approach, 
always capable of change in the light of current critical experience. A 
closer inspection, however, of his speeches and extempore writings 
reveals that, behind the matter-of-fact discussion of concrete situa- 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 129 

tions, there is an underlying set of fundamental principles that guided 
his judgment. In Weizmann's life-work these principles played a r61e 
similar to that of the fundamental methodology of science, which 
organizes fragmentary knowledge into an harmonious, self -consistent 
unity. Some ideas of Weizmann that constituted his permanent 
legacy will be the subject of the following discussion. 

The dilemmas facing a modern scientist were forced on young Weiz- 
mann quite early. Decades before scientists became conscious of the 
heavy social responsibility resting on those who created technological 
weapons, Weizmann was called on to make some of the weightiest 
decisions of his life. His problem was not dictated by the recognition 
of the danger involved in the transfer of the results of scientific 
research into the hands of an irresponsible group. He did not need 
the challenge of the atomic war to realize that the clash between the 
'two cultures' might lead to the doom of mankind and that scientists 
were obliged to apply their humanizing contribution in order to save 
mankind from potential extermination. Thirty years before Russell 
and Einstein summoned scientists to participate actively in social 
affairs, many years before Niels Bohr realized that a total change in 
the attitude of modern man was imperative and that the scientific 
outlook could provide the basis for a renaissance of international 
morals, Weizmann made his decision. 

From many points of view Weizmann's road to social responsibility 
was simpler than that of the Western scientists who, for many years, 
regarded humanism as an expression of Aristotelian teleology and 
sterile scholasticism. As a young Jew in a small community within 
the 'Pale of Settlement', as the son of a struggling, oppressed and 
persecuted nation, he absorbed from early childhood the elements of 
Zionism, and of its Messianic hopes, and a readiness to take part in a 
movement for the liberation of his people. In his impoverished little 
village Motol he became imbued with feelings of social responsibility 
for those whose life is always precarious. This responsibility, however, 
became a difficult burden when he discovered that he could make an 
excellent scientific career. Getting out of the Pale of Settlement, 
acquiring Western culture and science, made it very easy to forget 
the moral responsibilities acquired in childhood. 

However, a scientific career did not blind him to the realities. In 
his letter to Mrs (later Lady) Schuster in 19112, he says: 

Even as a boy of fourteen I had to fight my own battles; I had to 
struggle for every inch of my long way in Russia as a poor Jew 
coming of poor Jewish parents; at the Universities of Berlin and 



130 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

Geneva I had to work my way by doing analytical work in the 
night, teaching work and all sorts of jobs. 

Nine years ago I thought I found a place of rest: I became a 
university lecturer. I did some good research work, and could look 
confidently into the future. But my chief retired and all his 
assistants had to leave. The only place where I could find work 
was England. Neither in Germany nor in France had I the 
slightest chance as a Jew to get on. I landed in this country with 
eighteen shillings in my pocket and plenty of good intentions. 
Perkin was awfully good to me. I worked hard and he did all he 
could for me. Slowly I worked my way up. 

But all this time, Mrs Schuster, my ambition was centred on one 
cardinal point: to accumulate as much experience as possible and 
to work myself up to a senior head position and to go away to 
Palestine. In the hardest moments of my life this ideal is the guid- 
ing star. It is the dream of my life. 

As early as 1912 his candidature for a full professorship was well 
under way; at the same time his scientific friends were pressing to 
have the high distinction of membership in the Royal Society 
bestowed upon him. He was immediately successful in his scientific 
research, an excellent teacher, and a welcome member of the scienti- 
fic group in England. It was rather easy to forget his brethren in 
far-off Russia and to devote himself to a private career. None of the 
horrors of modern scientific technology weighed on his conscience. 
Science still seemed to be the c road of progress', the road of eman- 
cipation and liberation of oppressed people, and one could easily 
justify scientific activity with agreeably liberal reasons. 

Weizmann, however, did not take this easy road. Even as a young 
man of twenty-eight he had looked squarely at his own private res- 
ponsibility and made his decision. It was Weizmann's conviction that 
the liberation of the Jewish people was not a matter of a materialistic 
renaissance, not the establishment of another Levantine state, but 
that it could only come about by building a centre for the renaissance 
of the Jewish spirit. The vehicles of this renaissance, in his opinion, 
must be institutes of higher learning, and at that time his primary 
concern was with the establishment of the Hebrew University. But 
he did not feel that his task was finished by writing a pamphlet and 
making some luke-warm propaganda for the University. 

In a touching letter to his fiancee, later his wife, he writes the 
following: 'I stand before two alternatives. If the project for the 
University progresses it will be unimaginable for me to be occupied 
in chemical work simultaneously. . . . You know very well what 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 13! 

chemistry is to me, what is the laboratory, its joys and sorrows. But 
you know at the same time, my dearest, that the thought of the 
University is no less dear to my heart. Chemistry is my private occu- 
pation. It is this activity in which I rest from my social tasks. Forget- 
ting now about all material calculations, I would like to pose the 
problem to you from a purely moral angle: the alternative is difficult, 
horribly difficult.' 

His original decision was to abandon scientific activity and devote 
himself to the institution that seemed to him to contain the kernel of 
the Jewish national home. Later, however, he came to the conclusion 
that he ought not to give up his scientific activity but must look for a 
new synthesis, a synthesis in which his scientific creation would merge 
harmoniously with his Zionist leadership. He was very much aware 
of the difficulties; in 1914 he wrote his friend Julius Simon: 

I know very well that you are devoting to the Zionist case the 
same amount of time as I do and that you are as tired as I am. 
There is, however, a certain difference, which makes my problem 
more difficult than yours. Under the conditions of my life during 
the last one and a half years it has been personally impossible to 
create scientifically. After every trip I am torn apart, thrown out 
from the conceptual framework of science, and before I have the 
possibility of getting back to my science, I have to travel again. 
Not talking about the daily letters and the little troubles, it is the 
constant tension which makes it impossible to concentrate on 
scientific problems. 

On the other hand, it is unimaginable for me to give up the 
things here. First, because I have in the laboratory numerous 
interesting problems which will endow me with a good name in 
science, and secondly, because for Zionism itself, I should not give 
up what I have reached hitherto. Nevertheless, serving two gods 
is extremely difficult. 

Weizmann's attempt to reach a synthesis was based on a profound 
recognition of the nature of modern science and the recognition that 
within science itself the attitudes had changed. Science was no longer 
the materialistic 'anti-humanistic' movement of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Though reluctant to speak about his attitude to science as a 
basis for a new humanistic outlook, he made clear his attitude in a 
remark during the Nineteenth Zionist Congress in 1935: 

I am not a Marxist, I do not know whether I am a bourgeois, 
but I am surely not a capitalist. However, my non-Marxism has a 



132 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

different meaning from that used in the present-day attacks on 
Marxism. I am a chemist and I have had the possibility to follow 
the development of the sciences during the last few years. 

I believe that the scientific materialism which started with 
Hegel and Darwin and has developed recently to the outlook of 
Einstein, Eddington and Jeans shows that the basis of his- 
torical materialism does not hold today as solidly as it did, say 
twenty years ago. I do not intend to present a dissertation on 
materialism, but I would like to say only this : in a world in which 
the line of demarcation between matter and energy has dis- 
appeared, in a world in which Newton's teaching of gravitation has 
been undermined to a greater extent than the programme of the 
parties of the Jewish State, in a world in which the scientific and 
economic bases are suffering a deep crisis, it would be unwise for a 
man with partial scientific discipline to adopt the one or the other 
possible form of society. 

Today so-called historical materialism looks to me as a piece of 
ingenuous one-sidedness. However, the economic fundamentals of 
this materialism contain something which brings to light the spirit 
of Jewish prophetical teaching. Only when this is realized can we 
understand how it has been possible for our workers in the Emek, 
brought up as they were on Judaism and on Marxism, to achieve 
the synthesis of ideals that they have achieved. 

Weizmann was one of the first to grasp the humanistic implications 
of Einstein's theory that matter and energy are different aspects of a 
profound unity that cannot be expressed in tangible forms. In 
spite of his social responsibilites he had sufficient time to ponder on 
and recognize the revolutionary change in the scientific attitude 
brought about by the discovery of the duality of particle and wave 
forms of matter and light, and he saw clearly that this new non- 
materialistic science was much closer to humanism. In the world of 
modern science, where logic has become a highly practical science 
and physics a highly theoretical doctrine, where the role of the 
observer cannot be divorced from the objective results of experiment, 
the long-standing barrier between the subjective human spirit and 
the objective world seems to crumble. Science is consciously becom- 
ing an integral part of human culture, another expression of the 
determination of the human intellect to understand both itself and 
the world. 

Within this outlook the social responsibility of a scientist is not 
dictated by practical reasons only, or by the fact that the scientist is 
indispensable for guidance in a maze of technicalities that only he 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 133 

can master. For Weizmann, the social responsibility of science was 
intrinsic to the very fact that science was an integral part of a great 
human effort, and could not be dissociated from the culture of his 
time. The scientist is neither a superman nor an outcast unconcerned 
with ordinary human needs. He is a citizen carrying out an important 
task and producing cultural values that must be integrated within 
the general framework of cultural development. 

In one of his last speeches, at the first session of the Knesset in 
Jerusalem in February 1949, Dr Weizmann said: 

First let us strive to strengthen our constructive resources of 
science and research, which are the basis of human achievement. 
Yet, for all the decisive importance of science, it is not by science 
alone that we shall win through. 

Let us build a new bridge between science and the spirit of man. 
"Where there is no vision the people perish." We have seen what 
science leads to when it is not inspired by moral vision the 
atomic bomb threatening to destroy the entire planet. 

All my life I have tried to make science and research the basis 
of our national endeavour, but I have always known fully well 
that there are values higher than science. The only values that 
offer healing for the ills of humanity are the supreme values of 
justice and righteousness, peace and love. 

Zion will be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with 
righteousness. 

Weizmann's philosophy on the relation of science and humanism was 
deeply influenced by the teaching of the great Jewish philosopher 
who was Weizmann's intellectual guide and teacher, Ahad Ha' am. 

Ahad Ha' am was the first philosopher who recognized that Judaism 
was a culture characterized by the survival value of any profound cul- 
ture that encompasses numerous aspects of human life. He maintained 
that what preserved the Jewish nation during the 2,000 years of the 
Diaspora and enabled the Jewish people to retain a unity which 
transcends geographical, political and economic diversity, was the 
unity of its cultural heritage. According to him, the power of cultures 
was discovered early by the sages before the destruction of the Second 
Temple. They realized that the survival of the Jewish people, which 
could not be based on military power, on economic strength or politi- 
cal influence, could be placed on a cultural foundation. Their culture 
could carry the Jews through all the vicissitudes of a hostile and 
changing world. 

Rabbi Yochanan Ben-Zakai had realized, during the Roman siege 



134 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

of Jerusalem in the year AD 70, that cultural values need not be the 
product of an unconscious historical development, but could be 
fostered consciously and purposefully. 

In a short article published in 1891, Ahad Ha'am wrote: 

While the Romans besieged Jerusalem, while outside the walls the 
sword prevailed and inside the walls hunger ruled, the youth of 
Israel made final efforts, with no hope for victory, to fight their 
people's foes. At the same time the elder sages were sitting in 
Yavne and dealing with the regulations governing purity and 
impurity. The warriors were embittered with the Pharisees who 
were concerned with eternal life while their brethren were being 
exterminated by sword and imprisoned. 

But we know now that the Pharisees were right, and that while 
the Jewish heroes who sacrificed themselves for momentary life 
died a righteous death, their war did not save their nation from 
extermination. Those quiet Pharisees saw the future development 
from the beginning and realized there was no hope to build their 
national life on the basis of momentary achievement. They de- 
voted themselves to eternal life in order to build a new world for 
the future generations who were to live scattered in the Diaspora, 

Ahad Ha'am felt that a Messianic Zionism like Herzl's, a Zionism 
that envisaged its aim in the reconstruction of a material Jewish 
national home, did not meet the needs of the Jewish people nor meet 
the problem of the Jewish nation in the twentieth century. He recog- 
nized that it was not only the physical persecution of the Jews which 
underlay the urge for a national solution in the form of a national 
home, but that the growth of nationalism during the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries, the upsurge of chauvinism and of a sterile 
assimilation endangered not only the Jews themselves, but Judaism 
as a culture. His conclusion was that the primary task of Zionism 
was the revival of Judaism, of a creative and developing Judaism, 
and not only the establishment of a physical asylum in the land of 
Israel. 

In a penetrating analysis based on the direct observation of what 
was going on in the Palestine of the beginning of the century, Ahad 
Ha'am wrote openly and sharply that the prospects of developing a 
little Balkanic country surrounded by enemies were very limited. 
Only if the State of Israel were to fulfil a spiritual mission, if it were 
to become the centre of a cultural renaissance, if it were to play a 
role in the life of every Jew in the world by providing new cultural 
values, traditions of learning and moral attitudes, only then would 
the State of Israel perform its task, gain international justification 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 135 

and be able to survive the potential hostilities foreseen by Ahad 
Ha 3 am some fifty years before the establishment of the State. 

Weizmann, following Ahad Ha'am's reasoning, and being imbued 
with the idea that science was an integral part of modern life, 
reasoned further that if a centre was to be established in Israel that 
would justify its existence both from the Jewish and international 
point of view, it had to be one in which science would merge with 
human values and would help in translating classical Jewish tradi- 
tions, outlook and modes of life into contemporary acceptable 
language. As early as 1903 he published, together with Martin Buber, 
a famous pamphlet in which he pointed out that the translation of 
cultural Zionism into practical terms meant the establishment of a 
Hebrew University. In 1918 he took the first steps to realize this 
objective. While British guns were still roaring on the outskirts of 
Jerusalem, while Turkish troops were still seen on the horizon, Weiz- 
mann laid the foundations of the Hebrew University on Mount 
Scopus. At the ceremony he said: 

It seems at first sight paradoxical that in a land with so sparse a 
population, in a land where everything still remains to be done, in 
a land crying out for such simplicities as ploughs and roads, we 
should begin by creating a centre of spiritual and intellectual 
development. But we Jews know that when the mind is given 
fullest play, that when we have a centre for the development of 
Jewish consciousness, it will coincide with the fulfilment of our 
material needs. In the darkest ages of our existence we found pro- 
tection and shelter within the walls of our schools and colleges 
and the tormented body of the Jew found relief and consolation 
in a devoted study of Jewish science. 

Amidst all the sordidness and squalor of the ghetto there stood 
the greatest of schools of learning where numbers of young Jews 
sat with our Rabbis and great teachers. These schools and colleges 
served as great reservoirs that during the long ages of persecution 
stored up an intellectual and spiritual energy which, on the one 
hand, helped to maintain our national existence and, on the other 
hand, blossomed forth for the benefit of mankind once the walls of 
the ghetto had fallen. 

It was clear to Weizmann that the establishment of a Hebrew Uni- 
versity did not mean the creation of an ivory tower, of a closed group 
living a monastic life in the temples of science. To him science was 
a social function that had to keep in constant contact with the life 
and interests of the people. In 1918 he said: 



136 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

The Hebrew University, while trying to maintain the highest 
scientific level, must at the same time be rendered accessible to all 
classes of the people. The Jewish workman and farm labourer 
must be enabled to find there a possibility of continuing and com- 
pleting his education in his free hours. The doors of our libraries, 
lecture rooms and laboratories must be wide open to them all. 
Thus the University will exercise its beneficial influence on the 
nation as a whole. 

Earlier, in his speech at the Eleventh Zionist Congress, he said: 

It is a fact that the Jew possesses a strong intellect. If we under- 
stand well the tasks of a colonizer, if we reckon not only the manual 
strength but also the psychology of our colonizers, we cannot 
ignore these intellectual gifts. We shall, on the contrary, try to use 
them even for economic purposes. Although we have at present 
an ardent desire to see our people plough the fields and to make 
it faithful to its soil, we know that we are and shall always be the 
People of the Book. Our strongest weapon is the spirit, and it is 
our duty to cultivate this spirit, to sharpen the weapon with which 
we must fight for a better existence. The University will be our 
spiritual dreadnought; it will be of greater value to us than armies 
and navies are to other nations. 

How close to his heart was the spiritual and scientific renaissance 
of the Jewish people one can learn from his speech at the Congress in 
Basle in 1946. This was the first Congress after the second World 
War, when news about the extermination of the Jews in Germany 
became known and the Zionist movement tried to sum up the terrible 
losses sustained at the hands of the Nazi forces. Several speakers in 
different languages tried to express the feeling of despair, of desola- 
tion, and horror. Only Weizmann, however, speaking in plain 
Yiddish, succeeded in putting the feelings of the Congress in simple 
words. When he spoke, the Congress rose to its feet and listened with 
tearful eyes to the simple words of its great leader. 

Weizmann did not so much grieve over the material losses; he was 
mostly concerned with the terrible blow the Nazi assassins had 
inflicted on Judaism by the destruction of its centres of learning. He 
said: 

Everything that we have lost in this generation in learning, in 
wisdom, in good deeds and moral, are things that one cannot 
weigh on a balance or measure with a yardstick, things that have 
the highest importance and that the enemy has destroyed. All this 
can be rebuilt only very slowly in the future generations, Because 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 137 

of this, for us every Jew who studies, every school and every 
synagogue that is opened, is a real national treasure. It may be 
that, in the course of many centuries, we shall be able to fill the 
deep losses we suffered in the communities of Warsaw, of Odessa, 
Kishinev, and Vilna. It is both our obligation and our privilege. 

The obligation to build a scientific centre in Israel, to carry on the 
legacy of the Jewish tradition, was always in the back of Weizmann's 
mind. In Trial and Error he says: 

Our great men were always a product of symbiosis between 
the ancient, traditional Talmudic learning in which our ancestors 
were steeped in the Polish and Galician ghettos or even in Spain, 
and the modern Western universities with which their children 
came in contact. There is, as often as not, a long list of Talmudic 
scholars and Rabbis in the pedigrees of our modern scientists. In 
many cases they themselves have come from Talmudic schools, 
breaking away in their twenties and struggling through to Paris or 
Zurich or Princeton. It is this extraordinary phenomenon a great 
tradition of learning fructified by modern methods which has 
given us both first-class scientists and competent men in every 
branch of academic activity, out of all relation to our numbers. 

From Weizmann's operational point of view the value of science 
and the meaning of culture were not only a matter of a passive aspect 
of timelessness : culture is a dynamic factor that changes mankind. 
Two generations before modern economy fell under the sway of 
technology, many decades before automation began to enter industry 
and agriculture, Weizmann saw clearly the potentialities dormant in 
applied scientific research. Moreover, he understood that science 
provided a great opportunity to help small nations to develop and to 
strengthen themselves without expanding or enslaving their neigh- 
bours. Beyond topographical or geographical dimensions Weizmann 
saw very clearly the new and powerful dimension of science. While 
the Nazi psychopaths were preaching an expansionist policy to give 
the German people more Lebensraum, Weizmann was indoctrinating 
his people with the idea that one could create an enormous 
Lebensraum by peaceful means through the creative activity of the 
scientist. Instead of the conquest of foreign natural resources, instead 
of the brutal struggle for mineral wealth, for God-given richesse, he 
preached the fostering of the human spirit and the encouragement 
of ingenuity and resourcefulness. In the final analysis these will prove 
to be the best means of overcoming poverty and suffering throughout 
the world. 



138 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

He once said: 'Our sages used to say, If there is no flour there is 
no Torah. But/ he went on, 'more important is the reverse state- 
ment: If there is no Torah there is no flour. 3 Today learning is the 
basis of all practical things, and Torah and application are joined 
together. 

Since any industrial activity is based on the utilization of adequate 
sources of energy, Weizmann's primary concern was with problems 
connected with energy resources. He realized quite clearly that Israel, 
in spite of its proximity to the rich oilfields of Arabia, had practically 
no sources of local fuel, neither oil or coal nor wood, and this made 
him look to the inexhaustible source of solar energy, which could 
provide tremendous amounts of motive power, especially to the 
poorer parts of the globe. Available estimates tell us that the amount 
of solar energy pouring on the globe in three days is equivalent to all 
of the sources of uranium which could be used for atomic energy. 
The difficulty with solar energy, however, is the mode of its 
utilization. It is a very diffuse form of energy, which for the time 
being no one has succeeded in harnessing satisfactorily. 

Weizmann felt that one of the best ways to make use of solar 
energy was through the plant world. The photosynthetic apparatus 
of green plants is one of the best devices for storing solar energy in the 
form of energy-rich organic materials. It may be said that all of 
Weizmann's scientific life-work was devoted to the utilization of 
plant materials as a basis of industry. Thus, even in his early work, 
which led to the discovery of the acetone-butanol fermentation 
process, Weizmann advanced a revolutionary idea that proved of 
tremendous value in our modern industrial development that 
biological agents, bacteria, yeast and fungi, could be used as indus- 
trial materials in the conversion of plant material into chemical raw 
materials. As early as 1911 he was active in synthesizing rubber from 
chemical raw materials based on vegetable sources; later, in the 
second World War, he showed how some of the basic materials of 
modern organic industry, such as synthetic rubbers and plastics, 
could be obtained by biological means from plants, which are merely 
stored solar energy. 

In his struggle to provide Israel with a scientific foundation Weiz- 
mann never lost sight of the inherent dangers. With his sharp analyti- 
cal vision of the development of mankind, he recognized the latent 
tendencies dormant in a technological society. These may lead to the 
dominion of machine-like technocrats whose only aspiration is higher 
efficiency; they are essentially the priests of a new system of idolatry 
in which the gods of Automation and Mass Production determine 



VISION VERSUS FANTASY 139 

the course of human life. Weizmann saw clearly the disruptive and 
degrading effect that this modern technicalization process could have, 
especially on smaller, underdeveloped countries that lack a well- 
established tradition and a cultural background sufficiently strong to 
withstand the impact of an automatized society. 

In a society dominated by automated industry, where the economic 
structure as a whole is too complicated to be grasped by the citizen, 
in a world in which international relations are too involved to be 
understood by the ordinary man, democracy loses much of its mean- 
ing. The decisions made by the masses are not dictated by logical 
conviction or by an understanding of the intricacies of the factors 
ruling human life. That is why an increasing number of the people 
are escaping from social life into the domain of their petty private 
interests, the so-called 'privatism 5 in which the great humane ideals 
of justice and peace, international understanding, and human love 
are replaced by the ideal of owning a car, a television set, a re- 
frigerator, and a private home. 

Many modern psychologists believe that for life to become mean- 
ingful and rich, a pioneering purposefulness must exist in the activity 
of the State. Young people should realize that they must carry on the 
ideals of previous generations; the older generation should be imbued 
with a vision that far transcends their private interests. It was a 
similar recognition of these social goals by Weizmann that made him 
close in spirit to the pioneering movement of Israel. He once said at 
a Zionist Congress: 

The Histadruth, with which, I am happy to say, I have the friend- 
liest relations, has a very special harmonious synthesis of learning 
and of socialism, a synthesis that is not in a vacuum, but that has 
become a reality in the thankless Land of Palestine. It is this 
reality that gives modern Israel its special interest. It is this that 
attracts the interest of the world to Israel. 

Do you believe that the world is interested in a million orange 
boxes? Oranges grow elsewhere too. The world is longing for 
something new and pure, for a new form that will help it extricate 
itself from present-day confusion. The elements for this new form 
have been created through the work of the present-day generation 
in Israel. 

It is in this spirit that Weizmann looked for the synthesis of science 
and humanism, for technological development and pioneering spirit. 
There is no better phrase with which to close this article than that 
used by Weizmann himself: 



140 WEIZMANN AND SCIENCE 

The prophetic vision that out of Zion will come forth the word of 
the Lord is not only a legacy of the past, but is the commandment 
of the present and the hope of the future. 

Professor Aharon Katzir-Katchalsky, Professor of Polymer Science 
at the Weizmann Institute, is President of the Israel Academy of 
Sciences and Humanities. 



1914-1919 



CHAPTER SEVEN 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR 
DECLARATION 



T. R. FrVEL 



THE FIRST Zionist Congress, the Balfour Declaration, the proclama- 
tion of the State of Israel: each of these three milestones, these three 
historic occasions in modern Jewish history demanded special quali- 
ties from the Jewish leader concerned. Among other qualities, the 
calling of the first Congress required dare one say it? the touch 
of Herzl's far-soaring journalistic flair. The proclamation of the 
State called for the courage which Ben-Gurion had in plenty. But as 
for the feat in persuasion which in 1917 made the Balfour Declara- 
tion possible, it could be said that this was the most decisive achieve- 
ment of all, and what it also demanded from Weizmann was that 
rarest of gifts supreme political artistry. 

After all, this Declaration in which the British Government at a 
grimly undecided stage of the first World War undertook to facili- 
tate a Jewish national home in Palestine, has in retrospect an 
improbable look when one considers the forces opposed to it. 

The Jewish bankers and capitalists of the West were with a few 
notable exceptions hostile to Zionism; so were most of the British 
military and officials in the Middle East; so was the French Govern- 
ment, and the Vatican. In 'persuading' the British Government, 
against this opposition, the Zionists with their empty coffers and 
scanty organization, and their individually important yet isolated 
well-wishers, could only pit the existence of the Yishuv, the Jewish 
community in Palestine, the faith of their followers, and, above all, 
the political skill of Weizmann and his unique access to the British 
Government. As General Smuts said about the British War Cabinet: 
s We were persuaded but remember that it was Dr Weizmann who 
persuaded us. 5 

What therefore would have happened, if Weizmann, when in 1904 
he decided to concentrate on his scientific career, had chosen to go 
not to Manchester University, to England, but to some other country, 



144 ig 

as he might so easily have done? The question has its fascination, for 
one can surely say that in that case the history of Zionism might 
have been very different, and much else besides. But if we deal with 
history as it happened, this remains speculation, for it was Manches- 
ter which Weizmann chose; but since he later called this an inspired 
decision, it is interesting to see what it involved. 

The start was inauspicious and gave no hint of the drawn-out love 
affair between Weizmann and Britain which was to ensue. (Like 
many a love affair, it had its melancholy ending, but this was only 
many, many years later.) In Switzerland, Weizmann had seemed to 
live at the centre of a continuous European and Jewish debate : there 
were the arguments with Jewish Assimilationists of the Right and 
Left, and the internal politics of Actions Committees and Congresses, 
the exhausting battle against Herzl over the Uganda offer. But when 
Weizmann in 1904 now aged thirty crossed the Channel, it was as 
if he had left not only the Continent but the sounds of this whole 
great international debate behind him. English life at the outset 
seemed to him foreign and strange. In Manchester, he worked at first 
on a budget of 3 a week in a tiny basement laboratory provided by 
his sponsor, Professor Perkin. In this basement (as he later put it), the 
thick Manchester fogs weighed as heavily on his soul as on his lungs. 
He felt lonely, cut off from his fiancee and friends; the English 
Zionists seemed provincial beyond belief. Even when in 1906 he 
married and was joined by his attractive and talented wife Vera, 
their material circumstances were at first depressing. Vera had 
already qualified as a doctor on the Continent, but while she studied 
for her English degree, the couple lived in dismal lodgings. To pay 
off the instalments on new furniture, Weizmann had to work over- 
time. He sat up night after night, often with his infant son Benjamin 
on his lap, marking Oxford and Cambridge examination papers at 
an average rate of two shillings per piece. Writing later about these 
early years in England, Weizmann marvelled at the youthful stamina 
which had enabled him to endure. 

Yet however hard the start, every page of Weizmann's recollections 
also shows that precisely with his move to England something new, a 
decisive change, took place in his life. For his Wander jahre were 
over; from the start he struck roots in Manchester, in the life of 
England; he felt an attraction to which he responded. Step by step, 
since Weizmann did not lack talent in any direction, his situation 
improved. He found financial backing for his research work from his 
friend, Charles Dreyfus. The lectures to which Professor Perkin 
called him at the university proved eminently successful; he took his 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 145 

Doctorate of Science; in 1910 Vera qualified as a doctor and became 
a Medical Health Officer of the Municipality of Manchester. With 
both the Weizmanns working, their financial situation was much 
improved. Indeed, it was soon comfortable. They had a pleasant 
Manchester home and a growing circle of friends. 

But Manchester also offered something more. Weizmann's life was 
always in essence a Zionist life; and, as soon became apparent, he 
grew aware of a new confidence, new ideas, through his contact with 
liberal England where, as he put it, 'freedom of thought and speech 
were as taken for granted as the air one breathed'. It was in this free 
English atmosphere that Weizmann in 1906 felt able to return to 
continuous Zionist activity. And now we come to his special and 
personal relationship with England, the unique personal position in 
England that he created for himself and which was already very 
important in his early Manchester days. 

It is clear that just as Weizmann took to England, so the English 
took to him, and in a particular and unique way. On Weizmann's 
part, what always attracted him in English life was its upper-class 
tradition: the practical, not over-intellectual English outlook towards 
political affairs, the easy informality of English social and academic 
life, even the conversational flippancy which could cover serious 
purpose. To all these traits, he adapted himself quickly, but his 
assimilation was always one with a difference. He never for a moment 
suggested that he was anything but a Russian Jew, who in spite of his 
own privileges remained completely identified with the Jewish masses 
of Eastern Europe, and so was their spokesman. And from all that 
has been written about Weizmann by his non- Jewish friends, one 
thing emerges. It was this, his natural gift for blending his full and 
distinguished English life and his Zionist faith, which impressed his 
non- Jewish friends and acquaintances. One could say, indeed, that it 
was through this balance in his own personality that many of them 
caught their first glimpse of the profundity of Zionism and of what 
was involved in the Jewish problem. 

This special gift was already evident during Weizmann's early 
Manchester days. In 1906, when he had been in England for only 
two years, a Parliamentary by-election brought that aristocratic and 
sceptical British politician, Arthur Balfour, to Manchester. Weiz- 
mann talked to him for half an hour about the problems of the 
Russian Jews and about Zionism. Balfour soon forgot the name of 
this casually-met Russian- Jewish lecturer in chemistry, but never the 
impact of Weizmann's personality, nor the picture of the Russian 
Jews Weizmann had drawn. 

From this standpoint, that of the propagation of Zionism in the 



146 

years before 1914, one can also see what fortunate assets Weizmann' s 
choice to settle in Manchester yielded him. In academic Manchester, 
he was in a city which was still the vital centre of the British liberal 
tradition. Among men accustomed to think internationally, he could 
find a ready response to the concept of Zionism; and in the light of 
the far-flung nature of British imperial politics, he himself could see 
Zionism and Palestine in a new perspective. Secondly, Manchester 
gave him access to one of the world's great universities, where he 
moved among, and talked to, men like Sir Arthur Schuster, a 
philosopher like Prof. Samuel Alexander, physicists like Ernest (later 
Lord) Rutherford, Nils Bohr and others men who many years later 
were still to be in close contact with Weizmann as active supporters 
of the Jerusalem University. Thirdly, Manchester gave Weizmann a 
vital access to one of the world's great newspapers, the Manchester 
Guardian, whose political interests spanned the globe and whose 
famous editor, G. P. Scott, moved as an equal among statesmen. For 
example, it was G. P. Scott, by then won over by Weizmann, who 
told him casually in London in 1914 that they should drop in on 
Lloyd George, so that Weizmann might talk to him about Palestine 
it was as easy as that, or at least for Weizmann. 

But this is jumping ahead. By and large, the years 1904-1914 were 
for Weizmann an extremely busy period of preparation. He was well 
established as a lecturer in Manchester; he gradually extended his 
parallel private research work into the fields of biochemistry and 
bacteriology, which involved visits to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. 
Zionism also involved constant travel. Weizmann and his wife 
attended Congresses and other Zionist occasions on the Continent. 
In 1907, for the first time, he visited Palestine, where he met men 
like Ruppin and Chankin, noted the new spirit introduced into the 
Yishuv by the Halutzim, and returned confirmed in his belief in the 
absolute need for uninterrupted 'practical work' in Palestine, how- 
ever small in scale. At the Congress of that year, he characteristically 
coined the phrase of 'synthetic Zionism' : the political and diplomatic 
propaganda for a Charter, and practical colonization in Palestine, 
on however small a scale, were not opposed alternatives for the 
Zionist movement but had to be carried out in conjunction. He also 
worked indefatigably for his favourite project, the idea of a Jewish 
university in Jerusalem. While in those days it could be no more than 
an idea, there was something characteristic of Weizmann in the blend 
of steadfast vision and sober practicality with which he lost no 
opportunity of enlisting support for the idea in all the academic 
circles in which he moved. 

In England, though he held no official position in the Zionist 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 147 

Federation, he took part in the work of the English Zionists, gather- 
ing round him a circle of younger followers, such as Simon Marks 
and Israel Sieff in Manchester and Harry Sacher and Leon Simon in 
London. During these years it was also an asset to Weizmann that 
the most eminent Zionist resident in England should have been Ahad 
Ha'am, whose liberal and pragmatic concept of Zionism matched 
Weizmann's own outlook. In 1913 came a chance which almost 
might have had fateful consequences. In one of his few setbacks in 
England, he was passed over for a full professorship at Manchester 
University, and at the same time received a tempting offer to transfer 
his scientific work to Berlin. Fortunately Vera and he decided against 
a move. And then, in August 1914, came the thunderclap of the first 
World War. In July 1914, he and Vera were in Berlin; the outbreak 
of war found them in Switzerland. Through an anxious Paris, where 
Weizmann consulted Baron Rothschild, Weizmann hastened back to 
England to see what he could do for his adopted country and also for 
Zionism, by this time parallel themes in his life. As he recalled, it was 
a gloomy and frightening homecoming. And yet, the war with all its 
terror academic work seemed at a temporary standstill, Zionist 
international contacts were shattered had in fact also opened up 
new possibilities and hopes; indeed, quite wild hopes as Turkey 
entered the war against Britain. Just as a further British imperial 
advance into the Middle East to safeguard oil supplies and imperial 
communications had long been expected, so had the idea of a Jewish 
settlement in Palestine under British auspices been brought up from 
time to time, as a possible part of such a British expansion; but in the 
years before 1914 only romantically, just as a notion. Now, suddenly, 
as the guns thundered on the Western front and British Middle East 
forces moved into action against the Turks, the notion had become a 
concrete post-war possibility. And for Weizmann, this transformation 
meant that it was also his hour. As he wrote: 'Thus hope begets 

action and justifies itself It was a time of uncertainty; and I went 

about with my hopes, waiting for my chance.' 

In fact, he created his opportunity to transfer the centre of 
Zionism. In November 1914, after consultation with friends, he wrote 
his historic letter to C. P. Scott, quoted in Trial and Error: 

Don't you think that the chance for the Jewish people is now 
within the limits of discussion at least? I realize, of course, that we 
cannot 'claim' anything, we are much too atomized for it; but we 
can reasonably say that should Palestine fall within the British 
sphere of influence, and should Britain encourage a Jewish settle- 
ment there, as a British dependency, we could have in twenty to 



148 igi 

thirty years a million Jews out there, perhaps more; they would 
develop the country, bring back civilization to it and form a very 
effective guard for the Suez Canal. 

One could say, perhaps, that with this letter a new period of Zionist 
history began, the dual phase of Weizmann's leadership and Anglo- 
Zionist involvement. For now Weizmann's British contacts also bore 
fruit. The story of his career as a scientist and as a Zionist during the 
next three years years of grim war reads like one of romantic 
success. On 3 December 1914, when he met C. P. Scott early in the 
morning just off the train in London, as he often did, Scott said: 
'We're going to have breakfast with Mr Lloyd George.' So for 
Weizmann it was breakfast with the Chancellor in Downing Street. 
There, Weizmann also found Herbert Samuel among the guests. To 
the 'surprise of his life' (Weizmann's own words) he discovered that 
Samuel was not, like most prominent Anglo-Jews, an anti-Zionist. 
Far from it, Samuel was a supporter of the cause, and on his own had 
submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Asquith, about the 
Jewish state in Palestine. An invaluable contact! 

Lloyd George, meanwhile, had listened patiently, promised to 
give Weizmann's views serious thought, and suggested that Weiz- 
mann should also see Balfour at the Admiralty. Weizmann asked his 
friend Professor Alexander to introduce him, but again the contact 
came without effort. Balfour sent Alexander a postcard: 'Dear Sam; 
Weizmann needs no introduction. I still remember our meeting in 
1906.' This time, the conversation between Weizmann and Balfour 
lasted for several hours and in spite of its general philosophical nature 
was to be politically crucial. Balfour had, on the Jewish question, 
been strongly influenced by the Cosima Wagner circle in Germany, 
and had his reservation about the r&le of rich Jews in Europe. Weiz- 
mann swept these irrelevancies about isolated rich Jews out of the 
way. He talked instead about the intolerable situation of the Jewish 
masses and about the only solution of a definite status for the Jewish 
people, in a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and under normal condi- 
tions of life. In the end, Balfour said: 'You work for a great cause. 
You must come again and again.' 

Before long came further vital contacts. British war industry in 
1916 suffered from a shortage of acetone, a substance important as a 
solvent in the making of high explosive for naval guns. Weizmann's 
special process of producing acetone by fermentation attracted atten- 
tion. In March 1916 he found himself again at the Admiralty, this 
time in the presence of Winston Churchill, who greeted him: c Dr 
Weizmann, we need 30,000 tons of acetone. Can you make it?' Given 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 149 

official position and wide powers and resources, Weizmann was pre- 
occupied with this task in the British war effort for the next year. 
And this meant many things. First, a move to London : the new house 
he and Vera took at 67 Addison Road in Kensington (where his 
second son Michael was born) became a Zionist centre for years. It 
meant possibilities for Zionist work on a new level. Now Weizmann 
could work from London, and with new status, from his own position 
in the British war machine which, as he said, brought him into touch 
with 'all sorts of personalities, high and low, in the British Govern- 
ment'. 

Through the upheaval of 1916 it had also become fortunately 
for Weizmann a new Government. Lloyd George was Premier, 
Balfour at the Foreign Office, both already interested in Zionism. 
Among the men in key positions whom Weizmann met, talked to and 
inspired with sympathy for Zionist aims as he said, the task during 
1916-17 involved him in 2,000 interviews one can only mention a 
few. They were largely men of imaginative outlook: Lord Milner, a 
liberal imperialist and a member of the War Cabinet; Balfour's 
Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Robert Cecil, another man 
of ideas and ideals, to gain fame as one of the architects of the 
League of Nations; Sir Charles Webster and Colonel Meinertzhagen 
in the Intelligence Directorate of the War Office, through whom 
Weizmann had an invaluable contact with General Macdonogh 
soon another supporter and the General Staff; influential journalists 
like Wickham Steed, foreign editor of The Times, and Herbert Side- 
botham of the Manchester Guardian; and finally Sir Mark Sykes, 
Chief Secretary to the War Cabinet and entrusted with special res- 
ponsibility for Middle East affairs in Weizmann's words 6 one of our 
greatest finds'. 

All in all, quite an array of men who understood Zionism and 
were sympathizers to varying degrees. Of course, Weizmann had not 
been working alone. Herbert Samuel, though after 1916 no longer 
in the Government, was of considerable help; so were members of 
the Rothschild family. From 1916, Weizmann's hand was also 
strengthened because he had with him in England Nahum Sokolow, 
who was a leading member of the Zionist Executive and enjoyed 
intimate diplomatic contacts especially in France and other Latin 
countries. Weizmann and he worked closely with leading English 
Zionistics such as Dr Gaster, Joseph Cowen, and Herbert Bentwich. 
To assist Weizmann, a special political office had also been opened in 
Piccadilly, run by Weizmann's young disciple Simon (today Lord) 
Marks; among those associated with this office were Ahad Ha'am, 
Harry Sacher, and Israel Sieff. Out of all these efforts, so Weizmann 



I 5 19 14-19 x 9 

said, a Zionist Political Committee gradually and inevitably emerged. 
It was, in fact, constituted at a meeting with the English Zionist 
Federation late in 1916. It was quite an unofficial body the only 
member of the Zionist Executive on it was Sokolow. But by now 
Weizmann was ready for further action. As the war was proceeding 
on its grim course; as the possibility of America's entry into the war 
on the Allies' side came a step nearer; as a British offensive against 
the Turkish forces in Palestine was being prepared, it was decided 
by Weizmann and his friends to advance from general propaganda 
to political action to press the British Government for a definite 
declaration of policy in favour of a Zionist Palestine. And so, at the 
beginning of January 1917, the Political Committee drew up the 
famous memorandum, * Outline of a Programme for the Jewish Re- 
settlement of Palestine', which was with all its imperfections a first 
draft of a Zionist Charter. Towards the end of January 1917, after 
several conversations with Sykes, Weizmann handed him the memo- 
randum for submission to the War Cabinet. And with this move, as 
he said, the battle was joined. He and his friends 'had stepped into 
the world arena; we had taken the plunge into international 
politics . . .' 

What followed between January and November 1917 was the 
struggle for the Balfour Declaration, whose stages Mr Leonard Stein 
has now so excellently documented. But in a personal study about 
Weizmann one must, I think, here pause to consider a number of facts 
which illuminate the real magnitude of his achievement. 

First, he had become the effective representative of world Zionism 
without holding any official position, until for convenience's sake he 
was made President of the English Zionist Federation some time in 
1917. He was not on the Zionist Executive, nor even an inner mem- 
ber of the Actions Committee. At what precise moment it was that 
Weizmann realized that Herzl's mantle of world Zionist leadership 
had descended on him is not easy to say. Perhaps one could say 
simply that through the sheer stature of his personality he took on 
this role and so moved Zionism from its Central European into its 
British phase. 

One must also recall that this move required boldness. When the 
war in 1914 shattered Zionist ranks, the Zionist Actions Committee 
as it seemed, quite logically had established a bureau on neutral 
soil in Copenhagen, to try to maintain international links. As a 
British citizen, and because he staked everything on the British con- 
nection, Weizmann would have none of this. Without hesitation, he 
cut himself off from this bureau, an action noted by the British 
authorities. This required a faith in British victory which many other 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 151 

Zionists of Continental origin did not share. But Weizmann never 
wavered in his belief in his own superior insight into British strength. 
The move to link Zionist fortunes so definitely with Britain also 
required the highest diplomatic skill, because Russia was Britain's 
ally, and in Zionist eyes the Tsarist regime was after all the tradi- 
tional persecutor of the Jews. At various times, as many East 
European Jews received the advancing Germans as liberators, as 
anti-Russian feelings rose high among the masses of American Jews, 
Weizmann found himself in difficult situations; he was assailed by 
his fellow Zionists. (Russian Zionists like Tschlenow and Ussischkin, 
in particular, saw Zionist prospects very differently.) Solving these 
constant problems demanded on Weizmann's part the highest diplo- 
matic skill and patience the skill and patience of an artist as well 
as steadfast faith in his ability to steer an Anglo-Zionist course. 

These qualities were soon to be taxed to the full, because the whole 
direct Zionist approach to the British Government was at any time 
in 1917 fundamentally a gamble. Zionist historians, writing with the 
hindsight of the achievement of the Balfour Declaration, have mostly 
underestimated how frail was Weizmann's whole exercise in per- 
suasion in the corridors of the British Government. He might have 
been fortunate, in the outlook of the men he found there. But, as Sir 
Charles Webster has written, 1 these same men 

were labouring under an immense burden in this, for Britain, most 
critical year of the war, when the submarine losses reached new 
heights, the French mutinies threw on Britain the main burden of 
defence in the West, the United States was not yet ready to take 
part in the conflict, and the Russians were about to make a 
separate peace with the Central Powers. 

In such a situation, the difference between general sympathy for 
Zionist aims and concrete political action was always immense. Lloyd 
George and his colleagues had other things to think about than Dr 
Weizmann ; they had constantly to consider other allies and forces 
France, the Arabs, the United States, whose policies often ran counter 
to Zionism. Indeed, this difference between theory and action was at 
once brought home to Weizmann and his friends with a shock. 

Weizmann, together with Sokolow, Herbert Samuel, Lord Roth- 
schild, Dr Gaster, Harry Sacher and others, met Sir Mark Sykes in 
his personal capacity at Dr Gaster's house, for a full-dress discussion 
on 7 February 1917. To their unpleasant surprise, now that it came 
to the point of discussing British political action, they found Sykes 

1 Sir Charles Webster, The Art and Practice of Diplomacy (Ghatto and 
Windus, London, 1961). 



152 1914-1919 

hedging about the whole idea of a post-war Jewish Palestine under 
British rule, which he had on previous occasions quite warmly dis- 
cussed. There was the difficulty of Britain's commitments to the 
Arabs, he said, though he thought there could be an arrangement 
about this if the Zionists helped the Arabs elsewhere in the Middle 
East. However, there were also the awkward different views of 
Britain's allies, above all the French. He suggested the Zionists might 
therefore do well to try out their ideas in Paris. He also casually 
threw out an alternative: that the Zionists might aim at a much more 
limited Charter, allowing them to develop areas in Palestine they had 
already settled. And so on. 

To Weizmann and his friends, Sykes's changed attitude was be- 
wildering. Had they known it, there was an explanation for it. At this 
particular time, Britain's hands were tied by the secret Sykes-Picot 
Agreement with France. France and Britain throughout the war 
were sharp rivals in a race to expand their post-war influence in the 
Turkish Middle East. When Sir Henry MacMahon in 1915 promised 
British support to the Arab movement of independence, the French 
energetically staked their own claim. In the eventual secret agree- 
ment on respective Anglo-French spheres between Sykes and the 
French representative, Picot, it had been agreed that in return for 
French concessions elsewhere, Palestine was to be divided by a line 
running from Acre to Tiberias. The area north of the line was to fall 
to a greater Syria under French aegis; that south of it to be placed 
under Anglo-French condominium. 

The terms of this Sykes-Picot Agreement, of course, cut right 
across the idea of Palestine as a Jewish National Home. The jolt was, 
therefore, all the greater when in April 1917 (through C. P. Scott) the 
terms became known. Now the Zionists had to think again; it was a 
shock to realize that the re-thinking might have to be fundamental. 
As Weizmann put it, the preoccupation was now e not with recogni- 
tion for the Zionist ideal but with fitting its application into the web 
of realities'. 

Fortunately, the situation was not as disastrous as it appeared at 
first, for the British Government, including Lloyd George himself 
with his activist views about a British Middle East, also pretty clearly 
did not like the terms of 'Sykes-Picot 3 . Indeed, the key figure here 
was Sykes himself. An amateur in politics, a romantic Conservative, 
who had flung himself with enthusiasm into his imperial task, he had 
his own idea of what he wanted to see, and this included a Jewish 
Palestine as part of an Arab Middle East under British auspices. In 
this sense, all international Zionist pressure for a British protectorate 
over Palestine was to him a useful lever against French claims. So the 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 153 

concept of the National Home under British protectorate was still 
there, though the real obstacles to Zionist aims were now also 
apparent. Weizmann in April pursued them further in discussion with 
Robert Cecil, the Foreign Under-Secretary. Cecil listened sympa- 
thetically and suggested that it would help if the Jews of the world 
expressed themselves in favour of a British protectorate over Pales- 
tine above all, influential American Jews. This was, in fact, already 
being done. Weizmann was fortunate in that at this time the head of 
the Zionist movement in America was that remarkable personality, 
Judge Brandeis, with whom he kept in close touch. When Balfour in 
April visited the United States, Brandeis took the opportunity to assure 
him that not just a few Jewish capitalists but the mass of ordinary 
American Jews stood behind the aim of a Jewish Home in Palestine 
under British protection, an assurance from a man in President 
Wilson's entourage which Balfour noted. So the situation in April- 
May 1917 was at least fluid though no more than that for there 
had been another setback for Weizmann. The British spring offensive 
against the Turks, which the Government had hoped would carry 
General Allenby to Jerusalem, so that Britain could discuss the future 
of Palestine as the power in physical occupation, had faltered badly 
and was about to collapse. Together with the tense war situation on 
greater fronts, this was decisive. We have the testimony of Mr 
Leonard Stein that by May 1917, the War Cabinet had apparently 
lost interest in an immediate declaration about a Jewish National 
Home. 

Casting about for new moves, Weizmann told Robert Cecil that he 
might visit the British-occupied area of Palestine. Instead, he found 
himself off on a brief wild-goose chase, which he has entertainingly 
described in his memoirs. The US was now in the war; the British 
Foreign Office received news that Henry Morgenthau, the former 
US Ambassador to Turkey, was travelling to the Near East as per- 
sonal envoy of President Wilson in an attempt to detach Turkey 
from the Central Powers on a promise of lenient treatment. The 
puzzled Foreign Office had heard that Morgenthau thought the 
Zionists could be helpful in this enterprise. Equally puzzled, Weiz- 
mann saw Balfour who to his complete astonishment proposed that 
Weizmann should go to meet Morgenthau as an official British 
representative, in order to talk him out of his attempt at amateur 
mediation. Attended by a picturesque British intelligence officer, 
Weizmann promptly obtained leave from the Admiralty, and 
travelled by train through France and Spain to Gibraltar where he 
met the Morgenthau delegation; only to find it 'embarrassingly 
apparent' that Morgenthau had no clear-cut ideas at all whether the 



154 

Turks were genuinely ready to detach themselves from Germany, 
and under what terms they might do so. Weizmann, by now schooled 
in the harsh realities of the war and power politics, quickly recog- 
nized the amateurishness of the enterprise. However, as he said in 
Trial and Error: 

We talked in this vacuum for two whole days. It was mid-summer, 
and very hot. We had been given one of the casements in the 
Rock for our sessions and the windows were kept open. As Mr 
Morgenthau did not speak French, and Colonel Weyl did not 
speak English, we had to fall back on German. And the Tommies 
on guard marched up and down outside, no doubt convinced that 
we were a pack of spies who had been lured into a trap, to be 
court-martialled the next morning and shot out of hand. I must 
confess that I did not find it easy to make an intelligible report to 
Sir Ronald Graham. 

A brief interlude, a waste of time. At once, Weizmann was plunged 
back into action. As the shape of the war changed dramatically in the 
later half of 1917, the real test in the see-saw struggle for the Balfour 
Declaration had arrived. And if we look back on Weizmann' s r&le, 
we see that for him it was a ceaseless struggle on three levels. There 
was the level of big-power politics, fluctuating with the cataclysm of 
war, in which Weizmann knew that his access to the great was valu- 
able, but still, just access. On a second level he had simultaneously 
to fight an impassioned battle against anti-Zionists within British 
Jewry; and as if this were not enough, there were also bitter and 
constant inter-Zionist dissensions, which twice brought him to the 
point of angry resignation. All this within the space of a few months. 
Yet in the end he pulled through; he kept all the threads together. 

As for the great stage of world politics, here the changes came 
thick and fast. With America's entry into the war and President 
Wilson's own proclaimed aim of s no annexations, no secret treaties', 
the Sykes-Picot treaty faded out: that was a clear gain. Against that, 
with the US in the war, the American Jews were in British eyes no 
longer so directly important. But against that, again, President Wil- 
son was the new star on the scene: and in view of his c no annexations' 
policy, a Jewish National Home in Palestine could again be a factor 
favouring British plans in the Middle East; and this became more 
important as the renewed British offensive in Palestine could be confi- 
dently expected to bring the whole country under British occupation. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of Europe, the Tsarist regime had 
fallen and the Russian Provisional Government had abolished the 
disabilities of the Russian Jews, The argument that only Palestine 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 155 

was the answer to Jewish oppression in Eastern Europe therefore, 
inevitably lost some force. True, Weizmann's philosophy and, indeed, 
all Zionist aspiration went much deeper, and the number of organized 
Russian Zionists in fact soared; but it was no longer so simple to put 
the argument across to British politicians: Weizmann's powers of 
inspired persuasion were again fully extended. 

How Weizmann arranged to adjust Zionist tactics to this flood-tide 
of events would take too long to tell here: the fact is that he suc- 
ceeded. But here we come to something referred to before in this 
chapter, namely Weizmann's parallel struggle with the anti-Zionist 
leaders of British Jewry self-appointed, but still 'leaders 3 which 
in the end had its impact on the wording of the Balfour Declara- 
tion. 

One thing has here to be noted for an understanding of Weiz- 
mann's whole position. In view of the Jewish- Arab conflict which 
later ensued, it is pertinent to recall that it was not so much this con- 
flict which preoccupied attention in the months before the Balfour 
Declaration. To Lloyd George, Balfour, Milner and Sykes, as they 
thought of further British imperial expansion, the picture of a large 
Arab Middle East under British auspices with a small corner in 
Palestine set aside for a Jewish National Home seemed at the time 
perfectly feasible, as it did to Weizmann himself a little later in his 
talks to the Emir Feisal. No, the final climax in the campaign for the 
Balfour Declaration has to be seen as very much an inter- Jewish 
struggle between Weizmann and a group of Anglo-Jewish leaders, 
in which the members of the British War Cabinet were in effect 
asked to judge between two rival philosophic views of the Jewish 
predicament. 

To understand this particular conflict, one has also to see it in its 
historic context, especially as in later years it simply faded out. British 
Jewry at the time of the first World War consisted of a majority of 
new immigrants there was plenty of enthusiasm for Zionism in 
Whitechapel and a smaller number of well-to-do established Anglo- 
Jewish families. Some of these were passionate opponents of Zionism. 
This emotion, again, has to be seen as based not only on the usual 
assimilational outlook, but affected also by insecurity. The first 
World War years were a time when important British Jews could still 
open The Times or the Morning Post to find veiled or even open 
anti-Semitic attacks. For example, when Edwin Montagu in June 
1917 was made Secretary of State for India, he was attacked in the 
Morning Post as a 'politico-financial Jew' who as a Jew must have 
dual allegiance! Against this background, with their emotions 
sharpened by fear, it is not surprising th^t the assimilationist English 



156 

Jews should have seen a danger to their status in the Zionist concept 
of 'Jewish nationhood 3 , and should have reacted accordingly. 

The counter-campaign, urging the British Government to reject 
Zionism outright and to press instead for full citizen rights for Jews 
everywhere, was waged through the * Conjoint Committee' (repre- 
senting the Anglo- Jewish Association and the Board of Deputies). Its 
President was Claude Montefiore, whom Weizmann credited (with a 
touch of irony) with being 'a high-minded man who considered 
nationalism beneath the religious level of Jews except in their 
capacity as Englishmen'. Its secretary was Lucien Wolf, in Weiz- 
mann's eyes a gifted but embittered man, who simply could not under- 
stand how he had been outflanked. Trial and Error reads: 

It was hard for Wolf, who knew how to handle the Foreign Office, 
to look on while Zionists came along and established connections 
in his preserve; the more so as Zionism was in his view a purely 
East European movement, with a certain following in the East 
End of London, and beneath the notice of respectable British 
Jews. It was still harder, in fact impossible, for him to understand 
that English non-Jews did not look upon his anti-Zionism as the 
hallmark of a superior loyalty. It was never borne in on him that 
men like Balfour, Churchill, Lloyd George, were deeply religious, 
and believed in the Bible, that to them the return of the Jewish 
people to Palestine was a reality, so that we Zionists represented to 
them a great tradition for which they had enormous respect. 

In retrospect, I think the matter was more complex. It was just 
because Lucien Wolf and English Jews like him had a haunting fear 
that even their anti-Zionism did not, in fact, assure their complete 
Englishness, that their opposition grew so bitter. At any rate, Lucien 
Wolf as spokesman of the Conjoint Committee in 1915 rejected all 
co-operation with the Zionists on the grounds that the * national 
postulate' of Zionism and even the demand for special privileges in 
Palestine, was 'dangerous and provoked anti-Semitism'. For the next 
two years, Wolf and his friends engaged in a continuous campaign, 
by way of meetings, pamphlets and letters to the press, in which they 
denounced Zionism as an aberration conceived by 'foreign Jews*. 
One's impression is that for long they had not realized the full 
measure of Weizmann's contacts with the War Cabinet. It was when 
they did so in 1917 that their campaign assumed a touch of hysteria. 
On 24 May 1917 the two heads of the Conjoint Committee, 
Alexander and Montefiore, published a long statement in The Times, 
violently repudiating the Zionist position on behalf of British Jewry 
and urging the Government not to accede to Weizmann's demands. 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 157 

The battle was joined. True, The Times replied in a remarkable 
leading article, written by Wickham Steed himself: 'Only an 
imaginative nervousness suggests that the realization of territorial 
Zionism, in some form, would cause Christendom to turn round and 
say: "Now you have a land of your own, go to it." ' The ranks of 
British Jewry were also shown to be divided. The Chief Rabbi and 
the Sephardi Haham both repudiated the attack. But the battle was 
on, and if the hostile Anglo- Jewish leaders spoke for a small Jewish 
community, they held important positions. Now, also, a new figure 
entered the scene, among Weizmann's opponents perhaps the only 
man of real stature, Edwin Montagu. 

Edwin Montagu, a member of an old Anglo-Jewish family, was a 
sensitive, complex, self-centred man able and imaginative, as the 
reforms associated with his name in India showed. As Secretary of 
State for India from mid-summer 1917 onwards, he had risen to a 
position of unique distinction for a British Jew. From his whole atti- 
tude it was clear that he was a passionate Assimilationist just as 
Weizmann identified himself completely with Zionism, so in Mon- 
tagu's mind the Jewish cause was associated with assimilation and 
with his own status and career as a leading British Jew. When 
appointed to the Government, he was personally in a difficult posi- 
tion. The Asquith faction in the Liberal Party had taken it badly 
amiss that he had gone over to Lloyd George. He had also been 
sharply wounded by hostile anti-Semitic attacks against his appoint- 
ment in such papers as the Morning Post It was at this unpleasant 
juncture that he found as he saw it, to his horror that the Govern- 
ment was considering a pro-Zionist Declaration which recognized the 
concept of Jewish nationality, of a Jewish 'national identity'. From 
his whole reaction, it is evident that this situation threw Montagu 
right off his intellectual balance. In his preoccupied mind, the 
impending British recognition of Zionism became magnified into a 
mortal danger to his status as a British Minister of the Crown, and 
to that of all other English Jews even after the Balfour Declaration 
was issued and he was on his way to India he kept talking bitterly 
about a stab in the back from his Ministerial colleagues. However, if 
Montagu's counter-attack again Weizmann had a touch of hysteria, 
as a member of the Government he could also provide highly effec- 
tive opposition from within. As soon as Montagu was appointed, 
Weizmann was, indeed, warned of this danger, and so it turned out. 

On 1 8 July 1917 the Zionist Political Committee submitted to the 
Government its draft form for the Declaration which, as Weizmann 
said, had been carefully worded to stay within the limits of the 
general British Government attitude as elicited by him, and which 



158 ig 14-19 * 9 

Lord Rothschild handed to Balfour. The operative passage in the 
draft read: 

His Majesty's Government, after considering the aims of the 
Zionist Organization, accept the principle of recognizing Palestine 
as the National Home of the Jewish people and the right of the 
Jewish people to build up its national life in Palestine under a 
protection to be established at the conclusion of peace, following 
upon the successful issue of the war. 

On 17 August Weizmann cabled optimistically to Felix Frankfurter 
in the United States that the draft had met with the approval of the 
Foreign Office and of Lloyd George. It remained, of course, to be 
officially approved by the War Cabinet, but from his preparatory 
talks Weizmann felt confident that this would quickly be done. But 
the next stage was unexpected delay the British anti-Zionists 
were straining every nerve and on 3 September Weizmann learned 
that the Declaration had, as accident would have it, been discussed 
at a Cabinet meeting which Lloyd George and Balfour did not 
attend. In their absence, an impassioned intervention from Edwin 
Montagu had caused the withdrawal of the item from the agenda, 
to be temporarily shelved. The way out was a British cable to Presi- 
dent Wilson to sound him out, for which Weizmann was unprepared. 
Wilson, on the advice of Colonel House, replied that the Declaration 
seemed to him untimely, and that was that. 

Here was an unexpected and (as it looked to some) perhaps even a 
crucial disaster. As Lord Rothschild wrote pessimistically to Weiz- 
mann: 1 'Do you remember I said to you in London, as soon as I saw 
the announcement in the paper of Montagu's appointment, that we 
were done?' 

What of Weizmann? He said he 'did not feel as desperate, but the 
situation was unpleasant'. Here, at any rate, was the crisis. Now 
Weizmann and his friends had to act, and inspired action was needed. 

One can perhaps also say that this crisis month of September, more 
than any other period, illuminated the special nature of Weizmann's 
personality, his strength, his weaknesses, for during this same time he 
was also emotionally involved within his third constant battle, that 
within the Zionist ranks themselves. The conflict of the moment had 
arisen over Vladimir Jabotinsky's plan to raise a special Jewish unit 
of Russian and other Jews (eventually to be organized as the Zion 
Mule Corps) to fight with the British forces in Palestine against the 
Turks. Weizmann had given the proposal his backing, for once 
1 Leonard Stein, The Balfour Declaration. Valentine Mitchell, London, 1961. 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 159 

against the advice of some of his close colleagues. Jabotinsky, another 
dramatic artist in politics, had clearly exerted a personal spell over 
him. However, Jabotinsky's whole idea of a special Jewish military 
force was opposed not only by anti-Zionists but by many leading 
Zionists as utterly needless and only harmful at a time when so many 
Jews were already serving in the Allied forces as citizens of their 
countries. A storm of criticism, therefore, blew up. Even Weizmann's 
friend and mentor Ahad Ha' am dismissed the special force as an 
'empty demonstration'. Weizmann, however, remained curiously 
obstinate in supporting Jabotinsky, and as the storm broke both the 
strong and the weak spots in his political leadership were revealed. 
As a political artist, he had the enormous asset of his vision and of 
the self-confidence it gave him; but by the same token he could not 
brook personal opposition to his ideas among those near him. By the 
mere fact of such personal criticism, his entire vision, his entire self- 
confidence, could be suddenly shattered suddenly everything could 
seem no longer worthwhile. And so, over this relatively minor argu- 
ment about the special Jewish force, Weizmann in the initial months 
of August and September 1917 twice offered his resignation from the 
Chairmanship of the English Zionist Federation and the Political 
Committee. The rather stilted letters of resignation he sent to Soko- 
low had an air of intense wounded dignity. How far the confusion in 
Zionist circles had gone is shown by a letter from one of Weizmann's 
intimate friends, quoted by Mr Stein: 'In general I agree that this 
Declaration business is of no very great importance, and I do my 
best within my own little circle to keep the sense of proportion. . . . 
I'm inclined to think that Weizmann has outlived his usefulness as a 

Zionist leader. He has got to break with Jabotinsky or with us ' 

In the outcome, Weizmann succeeded in doing neither. But had he 
really meant to go through with his resignation, or did his attitude 
merely mark one of those spells of utter exhaustion and pessimism 
which were to recur in his later political life? It is hard to know. 
Fortunately, Weizmann's dismayed friends Scott, Ahad Ha'am, 
many others prevailed upon him not to go: but the incident reveals 
the emotional reserves on which he had to draw at this crucial stage 
of his great battle. 

The task was this. With his passionate anti-Zionism, Edwin Mon- 
tagu inside the Government represented a new and dangerous 
obstacle to Weizmann's entire plan. To overcome this, Weizmann 
had once again to use his ultimate asset his personal access to the 
statesmen who were shaping the destiny of the war, and his ability 
to convince them of the truth of his larger view of the Jewish situa- 
tion: the plight of the Jewish masses, the real meaning of the Zionist 



i6o 1914-1919 

hope. Once he embarked on this task, Weizmann's counter-offensive 
was massive. He maintained close contact with Mark Sykes, who was 
fighting his own parallel battle for the Declaration in the British 
interest. During September Weizmann saw Balfour, who assured him 
that his views were unchanged; he cabled Brandeis and Frankfurter, 
who were able to obtain greater support for the Declaration from 
Wilson; he saw Smuts; at the end of the month he saw the Prime 
Minister, Lloyd George, who promised that the Declaration would be 
put back on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting. Before this 
happened, on 3 October, Weizmann also submitted a memorandum, 
signed by Rothschild and himself, to the Foreign Office, in which he 
said: 1 

We cannot ignore rumours which seem to foreshadow that the 
anti-Zionist view will be urged at the meeting of the War Cabinet 
by a prominent Englishman of the Jewish faith who does not 
belong to the War Cabinet. . . . We must respectfully point out 
that in submitting our resolution, we entrusted our national and 
Zionist destiny to the Foreign Office and the Imperial War 
Cabinet in the hope that the problem would be considered in the 
light of Imperial interests and the principles for which the Entente 
stands. We are reluctant to believe that the War Cabinet would 
allow the divergence of views on Zionism existing in Jewry to be 
presented to them in a strikingly one-sided manner. . . . We have 
submitted the text of the Declaration on behalf of an organization 
which claims to represent the will of a great and ancient, though 
scattered people. We have submitted it after three years of nego- 
tiations and conversations with prominent representatives of the 
British nation. We, therefore, humbly pray that this Declaration 
may be granted to us. This would enable us still further to 
counteract the demoralising influence which the enemy press is 
endeavouring to exercise by holding out vague promises to the 
Jews, and finally to make the necessary preparations for the con- 
structive work which would have to begin as soon as Palestine is 
liberated. 

The next day, 4 October, the British War Cabinet met, this time 
with Lloyd George and Balfour present, and the debate was re- 
staged. Once again too and in this way history was made the 
decision turned on the view the Cabinet was to take of the world 
Jewish situation and Jewish aspirations. Montagu would not budge. 
He argued his anti-Zionist case even more emotionally. To Lloyd 
George he had written a few days before: 'Judge of my consterna- 
1 The Balfour Declaration, op. cit. 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION l6l 

tion. ... If you make this statement about Palestine as the National 
Home for Jews, every anti-Semitic organization and newspaper will 
ask what right a Jewish Englishman, with at best the status of a 
nationalized foreigner, has to take a foremost part in the Government 
of the British Empire? 5 At the Cabinet session Montagu in addition 
brought in the hazard of his prospective mission to India. 'How 5 , he 
asked, would he negotiate with the people of India on behalf of His 
Majesty's Government if the world had just been told that His 
Majesty's Government regarded his national home as being in 
Turkish territory?' Montagu's whole harangue was the passionate 
cri de coeur of a British Jew of 1917, who, on this one vulnerable 
point of his Jewishness, had lost all sense of perspective. The reply in 
favour of the Declaration was given to the Cabinet by Arthur Bal- 
four. It is pertinent to the Weizmann story to see how realistically 
Balfour by now saw the Jewish situation and the likely way in which 
it would develop. The Zionist movement, Balfour said, 1 

though opposed by a number of wealthy Jews in this country, had 
behind it the support of a majority of Jews, at all events in Russia 
and America, and probably in other countries. He saw nothing in- 
consistent between the establishment of a Jewish national focus in 
Palestine and the complete assimilation and absorption of Jews 
into the nationality of other countries. . . . What was at the back 
of the Zionist Movement was the intense national consciousness 
held (sic) by certain members of the Jewish race. They regarded 
themselves as one of the great historic races of the world, whose 
original home was Palestine, and these Jews had a passionate 
longing to regain once more this ancient national home 

Balfour concluded by stating that he understood President Wilson 
was favourably disposed towards the Declaration, but that the Ger- 
man Government for its part was now also trying to capture Zionist 
sympathies; two facts which both made a British Declaration timely. 

On this basic principle, Montagu saw that by now Lloyd George, 
Balfour and Milner were immovable. It was his exit. He was in any 
case about to leave for India, to vanish forever from this Jewish 
debate, and to incur no damage to his career. Yet the despairing, 
neurotic violence of his final protest once again had an effect. It 
caused the Cabinet, in the way such collective bodies react, to agree 
to another brief delay, to perhaps another piece of re-drafting to 
meet objections. This hesitation by such frail threads do decisions 
hang also provided time for the intervention of an entirely new 
figure, George Curzon (later Marquis Curzon). In his lofty aristocratic 

1 The Balfour Declaration, op. cit. 

G 



162 

way, Curzon was uninterested in arguments as between Zionist and 
anti-Zionist Jews, but he was easily the foremost Middle East 
authority in the Cabinet. It was from the standpoint of this haughty 
expertise, though he was not strongly partisan, that he now found the 
Declaration to be too ambitious for the limited possibilities of Jewish 
colonization offered by Palestine; and he, therefore, also proposed 
some further postponement and reconsideration. 

And so on. To Weizmann, who had been anxiously waiting not far 
away, this lack of a firm Cabinet decision on 4 October brought yet 
another disappointment, all the more disturbing because unexpected. 
The War Cabinet, he was told, had in the end decided to obtain 
some further clarification. A new draft of the Declaration would be 
forthwith submitted to leading Zionist and anti-Zionist British Jews 
for their comment. It would also be submitted again to Washington, 
to elicit President Wilson's opinion. 

Now Weizmann was angered. Crucial days were passing. In 
Russia, the Provisional Government was tottering; who knew what 
would happen? On 9 October he sent a strong letter to Philip Kerr 
(later Lord Lothian), personal secretary to Lloyd George, in which 
he again denied the right of the wealthy Anglo- Jewish anti-Zionists 
to speak for 'British Jewry 5 , let alone Jews elsewhere: 1 

Zionism is not meant for these people, who have cut themselves 
adrift from Jewry; it is meant for those masses who have a will to 
live a life of their own, and these masses have a right to claim the 
recognition of Palestine as a Jewish National Home. The second 
category of British Jews, I believe, will fall into line quickly 
enough when this declaration is given to us. I still expect a time, 
and I do so not without apprehension, when they will even claim 
to be Zionists themselves. 

To emphasize this point, the utmost Zionist support was mobilized. 
Within a few days, some three hundred Zionist and other Jewish 
bodies in Britain sent in resolutions to the Foreign Office in favour of 
Palestine as the Jewish National Home. Not only that: so alarmed 
was Weizmann about this last-minute hitch that he sounded out 
Herbert Samuel about the possibility of some understanding with the 
more moderate British non-Zionists, to end what he called this 
'humiliating fight', which to him affronted Jewish dignity. 

As it happened, such a move was not needed. The British Govern- 
ment was, in fact, no longer questioning the principle of the Declara- 
tion, but its limits and wording. But in this respect, the delay had 
already sufficed for some cautious second thoughts. The new draft 

1 Trial and Error, op. dt. 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 163 

submitted by the Government to the Jews and President Wilson was 
not Balfour's formula, but Milner's, re-drafted by Leopold (later 
Lord) Amery, to meet not only Jewish but now also possible Arab 
objections, for in the meantime highly critical messages had also been 
coming in from British General Headquarters in Cairo. The new 
formula read: 

His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in 
Palestine of a national home for the Jewish race and will use its 
best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it 
being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 
prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non- Jewish com- 
munities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed in 
any other country by such Jews who are fully contented with their 
existing nationality. 

For Weizmann and his friends the new wording yet again provided 
an unpleasant surprise as if to underline for them the fluidity of all 
wartime politics. The difference between the new text and that passed 
earlier by Balfour appeared far-reaching. Whereas the first text had 
defined Palestine as 'the national home of the Jews', the second only 
spoke of e a national home in Palestine'. Weizmann was not interested 
in the addition concerning the rights of Jews elsewhere, put in to 
satisfy Montagu and his supporters. What he thought worrying was 
the wording of the proviso that the rights of the existing population 
should not be prejudiced. As he noted, the new phrasing seemed both 
to impute oppressive Zionist intentions, and could be interpreted to 
justify a decisive limitation of Zionist efforts. 

However, this and no other was the draft Declaration now offered 
by the British Government. Weizmann and his colleagues, and since 
in the end it depended on himself, Weizmann, had now to make a 
swift decision. That the anti-Zionists would endeavour to object, to 
temporize and to delay, was clear. Should the Zionists for their part 
also reject the Declaration in its ambiguous new wording? Weizmann 
came to his decision. After all, to court further postponement was in 
the climate of the time a leap into the unknown. Weizmann could 
also see the whole historic situation in its proper momentous perspec- 
tive. After three years of endlessly patient pressure on the British 
Government, after his own two thousand interviews, he now had 
obtained that Jewish Charter which had for so long eluded Herzl. 
As he put it in Trial and Error: 

It goes without saying that this second formula, emasculated as it 
was, represented a tremendous event in exilic Jewish history and 
that it was as bitter a pill to swallow for the Jewish assimilationists 



164 

as the recession from the original, more forthright formula was 
for us. 

And so, acceptance it was, and now events moved forward again. On 
1 6 October, President Wilson, advised by Brandeis, sent the British 
Government his approval of the Declaration, though asking that for 
the moment this be kept confidential. On 24 October, the Foreign 
Office, prodded by Weizmann, sent a note to its Chief, Balfour, press- 
ing him for a fixed date of publication. There was to be still one 
further delay. George Curzon, the very last of leading British states- 
men to intervene, announced his wish to circulate yet one further 
memorandum, which he did on 26 October. In this memorandum, 
described by Leonard Stein as 'magisterial 5 , Curzon reiterated his 
view that Palestine, as a small and impoverished country, already 
inhabited by half a million Arabs, offered few chances for Jewish 
colonization. Any extravagant Declaration could, therefore, only dis- 
appoint Jewish hopes. Yet, having had his say, Curzon was also ready 
not to press his objections too far and to recognize that the Declara- 
tion in other ways had its diplomatic advantages for Britain, above 
all to forestall the possible 'sinister designs' of the Germans to make 
such a declaration first. With this, the last obstacle was out of the 
way. On 31 October, the War Cabinet approved the draft (Edwin 
Montagu was by now far on his way to India) and on 2 November, 
Balfour wrote as follows to Lord Rothschild for various reasons 
Weizmann had decided the Declaration should not be addressed to 
himself but to the bearer of one of the most potent Jewish names : 

Dear Lord Rothschild, 

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His 
Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy 
with Jewish Zionist aspiration which has been submitted to, and 
approved by, the Cabinet. 

'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment 
in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use 
their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, 
it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 
prejudice the civil rights of existing non- Jewish communities in 
Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any 
other country.' 

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the 
knowledge of the Zionist Federation. 

It was eleven years after Weizmann's first interview with Balfour at 
the Manchester by-election. Now he noted: 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 165 

While the Cabinet was in session, approving the final text, I was 
waiting outside, this time within call. Sykes brought the document 
out to me, with the exclamation: Dr Weizmann, it's a boy!' 

Well I did not like the boy at first. He was not the one I had 
expected. But I knew that this was a great event. I telephoned my 
wife, and went to see Ahad Ha'am. 

A new chapter had opened for us. 1 

Weizmann was now forty-three; in his middle years an outstanding 
figure, a man of compelling charm, happily married, surrounded by 
devoted friends. The day of the Declaration was a high point of his 
life. Without official position he was not to be elected President of 
the World Zionist Organization until 1920 he had made Jewish 
history through being simply himself, Chaim Weizmann, and as such 
unique. By reason of his intuitive sympathy for Britain, he had set 
himself to move the centre of Zionism from Middle Europe to 
Britain, and had succeeded. He had set himself to obtain the Jewish 
Charter through linking Zionism with British policy, and had suc- 
ceeded. The new chapter, that of the Anglo-Zionist connexion, could 
now begin. At the same time, almost effortlessly, he had become a 
well-known figure in the British political scene and simultaneously 
had risen to an eminent place in theoretical and applied science, with 
a significant contribution to the British war effort to his credit. 

Perhaps there was never again to be quite an equal moment of success 
in Weizmann's life. For the next Jewish chapter, that of the Anglo- 
Zionist phase, lasted for thirty years, from 1917 to 1947. Without it, 
the entire development leading to the State of Israel could not have 
taken place: of this there can hardly be any doubt. But the new chap- 
ter was also to be a frustrating and often bitter experience. Hardly 
was the ink dry on the Balfour Declaration, when Weizmann was 
made aware of a new enemy, the conservative hierarchy of the 
British military and officials in the Middle East, who spoke for what 
they thought Anglo-Arab interests and whose counter-offensive 
against Zionism was to continue for thirty years. 

This fact also prompts some concluding reflections on Weizmann 
and the Balfour Declaration and the particular moment in history at 
which it was achieved. First, Weizmann was perfectly right to accept 
the re-drafted Declaration rather than to risk delay. What mattered 
in the ensuing power struggle was not so much the wording of the 
Balfour Declaration. It was always the only Charter the Jews had. 
What mattered simply was that it existed, that it was there. How the 

1 Trial and Error, op. cit. 



i66 1914-1919 

Zionists clung to it and kept it in the forefront is a matter of history. 

What stands out, too, is how supremely important was Weizmann's 
timing. Mr Richard Grossman, in particular, has brought out how 
the Declaration came just in time. For only four days after Balfour's 
letter to Rothschild, Lenin and Trotsky seized power in Russia: 
history changed. Simultaneously with the Bolshevik Revolution, there 
came the increasing impact on world politics of the United States, 
itself an anti-colonial force. In 1917, one could say, the end of empire 
was already visible; with Lenin's and Wilson's proclamations, there 
began that vast popular upheaval which led to Asian and African 
independence, and of which Arab nationalism formed a part. This is 
not to say that Weizmann was just in time in achieving the Declara- 
tion against the still inadequately heard claims of the Palestine Arabs. 
As has been said, in the hopeful climate of 1917, Lloyd George, Bal- 
four, Milner and Sykes as much as Weizmann believed that under 
British auspices, accommodation between a large self-governing Arab 
Middle East and a small Jewish Palestine was perfectly feasible. But 
what could have affected British policy decisively already in 1918 
was that new imperial trend of seeking to flatter and contain Arab 
nationalism within a British mould. A delusion, no doubt, but one 
which might already in 1918 have provided a major and perhaps 
fatal obstacle to Weizmann's ambitions. Indeed, events showed more 
and more that Weizmann in 1917 seized a moment of opportunity 
which might never have returned. 

Even brief mention of such obstacles, too, brings one back to the 
question : how did Weizmann achieve his aim ? For if one looks back 
at it, at the motives which swayed the members of the British Cabinet 
at a time when the British army in France was reeling from the shock 
of Passchendaele and the war was far from decided, one comes up 
against the heart of the matter. All the factors usually adduced for 
the Cabinet's support of a Zionist Palestine the idea of winning 
over the Russian Jews, the American Jews, the rivalry with France, 
the idea of justifying British occupation of Palestine all these 
motives do not appear adequate to explain how a group of leading 
British statesmen were for a time supporters of Zionism, some indeed 
ardently so. For any convincing explanation, one has to come back 
to the additional factor of Weizmann as an individual and to his 
inspired years : to the way in which out of his own life as a Zionist, as 
a scientist and as a British citizen, he built up his Anglo-Zionist con- 
cept and set out to persuade those who could put it into effect. Sir 
Charles Webster, the eminent British historian, who first encountered 
Weizmann at the War Office in 1917, has put it as follows: 1 

1 The Art and Practice of Diplomacy, op. cit. 



WEIZMANN AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION 167 

With unerring skill he adapted his arguments to the special cir- 
cumstances of each statesman. To the British and Americans he 
could use biblical language and awake a deep emotional under- 
tone; to other nationalities he more often talked in terms of 
interest. Mr Lloyd George was told that Palestine was a little 
mountainous country not unlike Wales; with Lord Balfour the 
philosophical background of Zionism could be surveyed; for Lord 
Cecil the problem was placed in the setting of a new world 
organization; while to Lord Milner the extension of imperial 
power could be vividly portrayed. To me who dealt with these 
matters as a junior officer of the General Staff, he brought from 
many sources all the evidence that could be obtained of the 
importance of a Jewish National Home to the strategical position 
of the British Empire, but he always indicated by a hundred 
shades and inflexions of the voice that he believed that I could 
also appreciate better than my superiors other more subtle and 
recondite arguments. This skilful presentation of facts would, how- 
ever, have been useless, unless he had convinced all with whom 
he came into contact of the probity of his conduct and the reality 
of his trust in the will and strength of Britain. 

It is for these reasons that Sir Charles Webster considered Weiz- 
mann's achievement the greatest of all feats of diplomacy he had 
known. Yet writing from a Jewish viewpoint, in retrospect, one can 
perhaps go still closer to the heart of the matter. Weizmann saw not 
only the possible ideals but also the defects of the men he talked to, 
as he only too clearly saw those of his fellow- Jews. One has to view 
his essay in persuasion in the context of the prevailing mood of the 
age, including its particular streak of anti-Semitism. As has been 
shown, this was a cruder time when a Jewish political figure, such as 
Montagu, could still be openly attacked in the British press, simply 
because he was a Jew. Mr Leonard Stein has from documentation 
interestingly brought out how the main authors of the Balfour 
Declaration all had their specific anti- Jewish feelings. Lloyd George 
could express them vulgarly, Arthur Balfour philosophically, Smuts 
and Milner uneasily, Mark Sykes, at least in his earlier days, roman- 
tically. All had their reservations not only about East End immi- 
grants and rich Jewish financiers, but even about English gentlemen 
of the Jewish faith, and therefore, besides support, just a touch of 
antagonism also entered into the Balfour Declaration. But this is 
detail: what Weizmann achieved was that for a magic moment 
under the spell of his eloquence these British statesmen looked at 
the problems of Jewish Diaspora through Zionist eyes, through Weiz- 



i68 1914-1919 

mann's eyes. The moment was brief (brief for them collectively) but 
it sufficed; for what came of it was a new phase of Jewish history. 

Mr T. R. Fyvel, author and political writer, has been a keen 
student of Zionist affairs since his youth. His father, Berthold 
Feiwel, was one of Dr Weizmann's intimates from the nineties on- 
wards, and a leading figure in the Zionist movement. 



1919-1929 



CHAPTER EIGHT 



THE FABIAN DECADE 



ROBERT WELTSCH 



BEFORE THE tribunal of history Chaim Weizmann will be regarded 
as the architect of the Jewish National Home in Palestine that later 
turned into the State of Israel. Yet his leadership was constantly 
challenged by the movement he served. 

He realized a long-cherished dream of his people. But destiny had 
so wrought that he had to act alone and on his own responsibility 
during the convulsions of a world war, and when he encountered the 
masses of the Zionist movement again, when hostilities were ended 
and while the world was still shattered by unrest, the reunion was 
clouded by misunderstanding. Coming from quite different sur- 
roundings amidst a rapidly changing world, his fellow Zionists knew 
little of his own struggles and heart-breaking vexations, nor had they 
any knowledge of the political climate he had to work in. From the 
very beginning there was a kind of tension between the new leader of 
Zionism and the others who believed he needed their guidance and 
claimed the right to supervise his fidelity to his people. Without 
taking note of the peculiarities of the outside world they dealt with, 
they wanted an unbroken continuity of tradition. They brought to 
the unknown West notions of government and nationalism that pre- 
vailed in Russia and that often were irrelevant outside. Seen from 
within, the whole decade from 1919 to 1929, as well as the rest of 
Weizmann's life, was characterized by an antagonism between him- 
self and large parts of the movement. It was ever present, and it 
became manifest in the bitter open struggles of the Zionist Congresses. 
To be sure, before referring to the underlying causes and intricacies 
of the objective situation, it must be stressed that Weizmann also had 
faithful friends who stood by him with unselfish devotion, from whose 
loyalty he drew much encouragement. In spite of all attacks, his per- 
sonality was to dominate the Zionist scene internally and externally. 

During the first World War Weizmann was not, in a formal sense, 
the elected leader or president of the Zionist movement. The last 

171 



pre-war Congress, held in Vienna in 1913, did not envisage the shift- 
ing of the Zionist centre of gravity to England, nor did it expect 
revolutionary changes in world politics. That Congress retained the 
usual character of a party convention, mainly occupied with 
squabbles between the old group of 'political' Zionists under Wolff - 
sohn and Nordau, and the ascending 'practical' Zionists to whom 
Weizmann belonged. The main object of controversy was the ad- 
ministration of financial institutions like the Jewish Colonial Trust, 
which the Wolffsohn group did not want to entrust to the Zionist 
Executive lest it fail to observe businesslike principles and risk money 
entrusted them by shareholders and depositors in questionable "prac- 
tical 5 experiments in Palestine. In any case the scope of colonization 
in Palestine under Turkish rule was limited. Some time at the Con- 
gress was also devoted to the discussion of the idea of a Hebrew 
University rather remote at that time, yet a matter that Weizmann 
was much involved in. The Vienna Congress elected a Zionist Execu- 
tive with the seat in Berlin, which was advisable because of its 
geographical position between East and West, and because a head- 
quarters in Russia was out of the question. German Zionism was 
comparatively strong both organizationally and intellectually. No- 
body suspected that in a year the world would be submerged in a 
European war. 

It is very remarkable that fundamental Zionist unity could be up- 
held in spite of the division caused by the war. Totalitarian thinking 
in State affairs was not yet as firmly established as it is today. It was 
clear, however, that all political efforts for the sake of Zionist aims 
had to be made separately by Zionists within the two camps, to a 
large extent on their own authority and responsibility and without 
much regard to the bodies elected on quite different assumptions 
The Zionists in the area of the Central Powers, allied with Turkey, 
were allotted the task of preserving the existing Yishuv in Palestine. 
On the other hand, as time went on it became clear even to Central 
European Zionists that the ultimate fate of Palestine would be 
decided by the Western Powers and especially by Great Britain. 

The spokesmen for Zionism in England had to a large extent to be 
self-appointed, although some links with 'legality' were established 
when Dr Tchlenov and later Sokolow reached England. The story 
of how Weizmann emerged as the main figure of political activities 
has recently been told again by Leonard Stein in his comprehensive 
and brilliant book The Balfour Declaration. From the point of view 
of overall Zionist politics in the world crisis it is especially interesting 
to learn how both sides in the war tended to attract Jewish sympa- 
thies by various degrees of support for Zionism. A rather mystical 



THE FABIAN DECADE 173 

belief in the might of Jewry may partially explain the amazing fact 
that Weizmann, alone or together with some members of the Zionist 
Political Committee, succeeded in persuading British Ministers that 
he represented a Power. He was recognized as diplomat of a people 
that had no political status whatsoever and no territorial consistency, 
in the face of the opposition of almost all the Jews who until then 
had counted. He became the de facto leader of Zionism, at the most 
important spot. Yet, with the exception of the East End of London 
and some parts of American Jewry hitherto not too well organized 
for political action, he was isolated and cut off from the traditional 
centres of the Zionist movement. 

Thus it was natural, after the war, for a certain estrangement to 
have taken place between the single parts of the movement. Weiz- 
mann's indefatigable efforts and his astounding success were, of 
course, well known the world over. They had been enthusiastically 
welcomed by Zionists everywhere. But after a short time they were 
taken for granted. People were disappointed when they found out 
that the results did not exactly conform with what Zionist speakers 
had read into them. It must be recalled that the Jewish masses in 
Eastern Europe who formed the bulk of the Zionist movement had 
undergone an extraordinary (though child's play compared with the 
second World War) ordeal of oppressions and expulsions, of changing 
regimes and military occupation, of deprivation and revolutions. 
They had buoyed themselves up by Messianic hopes of some kind of 
redemption from outside. The young generation, largely uprooted 
and imbued with nationalist and socialist ideals, proclaimed its wil- 
lingness to sacrifice itself for the idea of Jewish rebirth. They were 
far away from political realism and economic necessities as under- 
stood in the West. By the time the Zionist Conference met in London, 
in July 1920, the scene was set for a grievous clash. 

Many of the delegates floated in the clouds, but Weizmann was 
well-grounded, since he had undergone the most enlightening 
though alarming experience before the Conference met. He had been 
the head of an official Zionist Commission that went to Palestine in 
March 1918. The British had accorded him the appropriate status, 
and he had had an opportunity to learn on the spot the immense 
obstacles to a swift transformation of the country. On his arrival 
Weizmann had established good relations with the Commander-in- 
Chief, Lord Allenby, but he also noticed the hostility and obstruction 
of the military administration at the top and in the lower ranks. The 
Balfour Declaration had not been promulgated in Palestine at the 
time of Allenby's entry into Jerusalem, and both Jews and Arabs had 
got the impression that the administration did not take it seriously. 



174 1919-1929 

The Jewish population in Palestine, the Yishuv, was flabbergasted, 
since it could not understand the cleavage between the declarations 
in London and the actual state of affairs in Palestine. They were not 
always diplomatic in the presentation of their grievances; Weizmann, 
too, had to learn that the Yishuv was not easy to handle. The Political 
Report to the XII Zionist Congress (1921), apparently written or 
inspired by Jabotinsky, gives a vivid description of the paradoxes of 
the situation Weizmann was confronted with, and in Trial and Error 
Weizmann devotes three full chapters to this great episode. First the 
'negative side' all the trouble with the military rulers that never- 
theless culminated in the great speech Weizmann made in his fare- 
well interview with Allenby. Weizmann calls it a e tirade', but 
actually it was a product of his finest art in finding an unforgettable 
wording for a historical situation: 

You have conquered a great part of Palestine, and you can 
measure your conquest by one of two yardsticks : either in square 
kilometres and in that sense your victory, though great, is not 
unique: the Germans have overrun vaster areas or else by the 
yardstick of history. If this conquest of yours be measured by the 
centuries of hallowed tradition which attach to every square kilo- 
metre of its ground, then yours is one of the greatest victories in 
history. And the traditions which make it so are largely bound up 
with the history of my people. The day may come when we shall 
make good your victory, so that it may remain graven in some- 
thing more enduring than rock in the lives of men and nations. 
It would be a great pity if anything were done now for instance 
by a few officials or administrators to mar the victory. 

The 'positive side 3 was marked by two spectacular events, one 
political, one spiritual: the agreement reached with Emir Feisal, the 
then outstanding figure of the Arab world, and the laying of the 
corner-stone of the Hebrew University. Weizmann's own narration of 
that historical meeting with Feisal on the Transjordanian plateau 
near Akaba stirs the imagination but makes pathetic reading today, 
now that the glorious hopes of an Arab- Jewish understanding, a 
fruitful and harmonious co-operation have gone with the wind, at 
least for the time being. It was, however, a good beginning and it was 
continued in Paris at the Peace Conference later, when Feisal wrote 
his famous letter to Frankfurter. At all these functions Colonel T. E. 
Lawrence lent a helping hand. The laying of the corner-stone of the 
University in July 1918 was a modest ceremony compared with the 
actual opening in 1925, where Balfour gave the key address and Her- 
bert Samuel said 'Shehecheyonu'. But it was moving and memorable 



THE FABIAN DECADE 175 

as a tribute to the spirit while the guns of the war still boomed. It 
was of symbolic value to Weizmann, who never lost sight of the fact 
that without a great spiritual revival the National Home would be 
meaningless. A house of learning was to him the most important need 
as it was for Yohanan ben Zakkai. Although professionally a man of 
'science', he never lost sight of the importance of the * humanities'. 
He was deeply convinced that science was the most important factor 
in the development of the country, in its preparation for productivity 
and for mass settlement on a thin and arid soil. But not less pas- 
sionate was his desire that the new Judaea should become a source of 
human enlightenment, of ethical progress, a centre of which could be 
said in truth and not in the conventional easy-going manner, that the 
Word would go forth from Zion. This was to him the essence of 
Zionism; it was more essential than political forms, which necessarily 
are of a transient nature. 

When the Zionist Commission returned to London, the war had 
come to an end. A decisive and busy time began for the Zionist 
leadership. They had to defend what they had obtained in war time, 
and to turn it into solid foundations. Great preparations had to be 
made for the Peace Conference, and finally the Jewish Delegation, 
led by Weizmann but including also anti-Zionists like Sylvain Levy 
(representing French Jewry) was received by the Council of Ten in 
Paris on 23 February 1919. 

In London the Zionist Actions Committee was in session. That was 
the first meeting of Weizmann and the British Zionists with some of 
the leading Continental and American Zionists, good friends of the 
past, with whom, however, they had fallen out of pace completely 
owing to the different circumstances under which they had been 
living during the war. Weizmann was struck by their misinterpreta- 
tion of the Balfour Declaration. Some of them, he says in Trial and 
Error, had already brought with them a list of Cabinet members for 
the first Cabinet of the Jewish State! Seen against the background of 
political reality it must have appeared to Weizmann like a scene from 
a novel by Mendelle Mocher S'forim or by Sholem Aleichem, both 
of whom have so brilliantly and warmheartedly satirized the native 
sense of unreality that dominated the minds of secluded Eastern 
Jews. 

The happenings before the Peace Conference, with the treachery 
of Sylvain Levy and the 'miraculous intervention' of Lansing, which 
gave Weizmann the opportunity of a rejoinder, were communicated 
to the Zionist gathering in London in a Report that has become 
famous. In his second speech to the Ten, Weizmann had used the 
striking formula that Palestine was to become 'as Jewish as England 



English', which later gave rise to misunderstanding, since hostile 
propaganda interpreted it as meaning that the Arabs should be 
eliminated, although in his speech Weizmann had explicitly included 
the recognition of the rights of the non- Jewish population. 

In the following months of 1919-20 Weizmann went to Palestine 
twice. Gradually the pattern evolved that was to pervade his life 
until the struggle was over: Jerusalem London New York were 
the focal points he had to move between. The situation in Palestine 
gave sufficient cause for worry, but there was one outstanding feat 
that set in motion the practical work and determined the whole 
course of Zionist work during the next decade the purchase of 
80,000 dunams in the Emek Yezre'el. This transaction, in the face of 
strong opposition from Zionist leaders, including the Americans, was 
due primarily to Ussishkin, whom Weizmann had supported in this 
matter. From that moment 'Ernek' became a battle cry, a flag for 
the Jewish youth in Europe, a moral concept, connected with an 
idealistic, austere, pioneering life that appeared as the highest mani- 
festation of national devotion and romance. It gave impetus and 
content to Zionism, and decided the victory of so-called e Labour 
Zionism' a child of the Russian Revolution of 1905, inspired by 
A. D. Gordon's ideal of tilling the soil with one's own hands and 
thereby changing human nature over the more rational ideas of the 
promoters of privately owned businesses, supported by the Americans 
and large numbers of Continental, primarily Polish, Zionists. Weiz- 
mann, though not underestimating the importance of private initia- 
tive, sided wholeheartedly with the enthusiastic youth, and remained 
firmly allied to Labour, at least until 1939, when the second World 
War created entirely new conditions also within the Zionist move- 
ment. What was most important to him was that Halutzim had 
already started pouring into Palestine by 1920, without waiting for 
personal safeguards, while colonization by business interests would 
have taken much more time and in any case would have been on a 
small scale. The other side of the medal was, of course, the urgent 
necessity of providing funds for this penniless mass immigration. As 
the deficits grew this became the first priority. It turned the President 
of the Zionist Organization into a sort of King of Shnorrers (to use 
the title of a famous Zangwill novel) a task he did not regard as a 
degradation. Nobody had a right to scorn him the blame lies on the 
movement that filled its mouth with nationalist phrases but was un- 
able to secure the most primitive financial foundation. It was the 
President himself, and no one else, who had to head the canvassers 
who knocked at the doors of complacent Jews the world over to 
remind than of their duty towards the National Home. 




8 The Zionist Commission headed by Weizmann. Jerusalem, 1918. (Left to right) Edwin 
Samuel, son of the first High Commissioner to Palestine; Major the Hon W. G. A, 
Ormsby Gore (now Lord Harlech) ; Major James de Rothschild and Joseph Sprinzak 



In the 
Middle East 




9 Weizmann and Emir Feisal, later the first King ( 
Iraq, at Ma'an, Jordan, 1918 



\ 




10 Laying the corner stone for the Faculty of Physics at the Hebrew 
University of Jerusalem, 1925. (Left to right) Lord Balfour, Sir Herbert 
(later Lord) Samuel, Judah L. Magnes, Weizmann, and George Shuster 




1 1 Weizmann with Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir, Shlomo Meyuhas and 
community leaders in Jerusalem, 1925 



America 



12 Albert Einstein and Weizmann 
in America, 1921 





3 Weizmann in Chicago, 1933. The reception committee included Meyer W. Weisg 
Louis Lipsky, Judge Harry M. Fisher and Governor Horner 



Contrary to expectations, no secure and stable position had been 
created in the Middle East by 1920. The war had left a legacy of 
chaos. The Great Powers quarrelled with each other, giving the 
impression that nothing was definitely settled and thus encouraging 
malcontents. The clash between the French and (British-protected) 
Feisal in Syria disturbed the whole area. Because of these disorders 
Jewry had to deplore the loss of one of the most valiant groups of its 
defenders: Joseph Trumpeldor, with five comrades, was killed at Tel 
Hai on the Syrian border. In Jerusalem, too, the situation was 
deteriorating; while Weizmann was celebrating Passover with his 
mother in Haifa, the first Arab assault on Jews occurred in Jerusalem. 
That was a terrible reminder of the unsatisfactory state of affairs 
and a grave shock to Weizmann. In the ensuing trials not only the 
Mufti and other instigators, but also the organizer of Jewish self- 
defence, Jabotinsky, were sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment 
(later quashed). Immediately after these depressing experiences 
Weizmann had the satisfaction that the San Remo Conference in 
April 1920, which definitely settled the political differences between 
the Powers, also confirmed the British Mandate over Palestine with 
all the clauses relating to the Jewish National Home, and that Her- 
bert Samuel, who had himself contributed so much to the Balfour 
Declaration, was appointed first British High Commissioner 
a Jew as British Proconsul in the land of the Jewish National 
Home. 

It was under the impact of this hectic course of events that the Zionist 
Conference of 1920 met. Zionist delegates the world over had been 
debating the advent of the Jewish State in all its imaginative details, 
and they were strongly influenced by world events, especially by the 
slogans of Wilsonism and Leninism. They arrived full of praise and 
gratitude for the man who had led Zionism to victory. No one 
doubted that Weizmann had emerged as the leader; his actual elec- 
tion was a mere formality. But many Zionists felt chilled, if not to 
say deceived, when they discovered that Weizmann was not the 
Messiah. There was, as Weizmann used to say later on, no royal road 
to Palestine. Instead of a performer of miracles who could attain 
everything by sheer will-power or by quoting resolutions of Zionist 
assemblies, they found a worried man who knew he had committed 
himself to an enormous task he had neither the means nor the power 
to carry out. It was not a clash of 'East' and 'West', but of emotion- 
alism versus realism, between the social and psychological upheaval 
of a disintegrating and revolutionary Eastern Europe and the com- 
parative stability of the Western world. The personal tragedy of 



178 1919-1929 

Weizmann was that he himself knew only too well the state of mind 
of his people, as he, too, had come from Motol and Pinsk, while at 
the same time he realized the futility of pure emotionalism in the 
fight with very hard political and physical facts. Gradually, the per- 
sistent criticism that he had not achieved a still greater miracle, or 
that he had accepted a too restricted Charter for Palestine, grew into 
mutual resentment and rancour. The dialectics of this malaise be- 
came manifest when Weizmann concluded the survey of his activities 
with the outcry: 'That is what we have done. Jewish people, what 
have you done?' 

It was, of course, a nonsensical and unjust reproach. To whom was 
it addressed? Who was the * Jewish people'? What could it have 
done? It existed only in a very vague impersonation. The first World 
War and the Russian Revolution had undermined and thrown into 
confusion the old solid positions of the Jewish people in Eastern 
Europe, and American Jewry had only just begun, during the war, 
to tackle all- Jewish responsibilities. At that time it was hardly more 
than the conglomeration of two incoherent groups: on the one hand 
the small group of 'notables', customary representatives of the upper 
strata of Jewish society, wealthy families mainly of German origin, 
who functioned as representatives because, thanks to their social 
standing, they could exert some influence in public life according to 
the old system of Shtadlanut ; on the other hand, masses of immigrants 
from Eastern Europe who had arrived after 1882 and just begun to 
make their first advance on the social ladder, largely thanks to the 
rapid development during the first World War. They included the 
large and influential camp of Labour organizations with more or less 
socialist leanings, imported ideologies of the Bund and to a lesser 
extent of the Poale Zion. 

Yet Weizmann's remark is very illuminating. It shows the full 
depth of his grudge in face of the criticism voiced, not by 'the Jewish 
people', but by the vastly increased camp of the spokesmen of 
Zionist parties. Weizmann knew well that he had somehow 'bluffed' 
the British Government and other Powers by claiming to be the 
representative, while not of a Great Power, yet of an imponderable 
great power that backed his demands. In a deeper sense, as harbinger 
of a historical process, he was right; but in terms of tangible facts he 
had at his command not only no national body of unified purpose 
but also no material means or tools capable of carrying out his pro- 
gramme even in a limited way. Protected by the clouds of war time, 
when the most fantastic ideas could tentatively be adopted if one 
thought they might serve some purpose, Weizmann had been able, 
thanks to the magic of his personality, to convince the statesmen of 



THE FABIAN DECADE 179 

the world that the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine by that 
unknown quantity, the Jewish people, was a practical proposition. The 
time had now come when all such nebulous projects would be more 
thoroughly scrutinized, and it could be assumed that much of the 
stock of war-time talk and promise would be discarded. It was of the 
utmost importance to demonstrate immediately that the Jewish 
national desire was no joke and no fake, nor a pseudo-messianic and 
unreal dream, but a well-considered and well-planned enterprise that 
could be set in motion if the authorities co-operated. 

Weizmann knew that time was pressing; he often quoted the words 
Lloyd George said to him at the Peace Conference: 'You have to 
take your chance now, because the political world is in the state of 
the Baltic Sea before it freezes. As soon as it is frozen, nothing can be 
moved, and one has to wait a long time until a second opportunity 
arises. ' Weizmann had called to London many of his old friends and 
experts and instructed them to evolve an economic plan. Most of the 
Zionist leaders who came to London from Russia offered their (un- 
wanted) advice on political matters but could not help in the practical 
work. It suddenly became obvious that colonizing a country could 
not be accomplished by mere Zionist conviction but demanded expert 
knowledge of a very elaborate technical nature. People who were 
able propagandists and debaters at Zionist Congresses or in fighting 
anti-Zionists still did not know how to make barren soil fertile or 
how to move masses and organize labour for the building of roads. 
Within the very narrow limits of the pre-igi4 practical work, at that 
time mainly conducted by the so-called Odessa Committee (founded 
in 1890 by the Hoveve-Zion) in a backward Turkish Palestine, some 
devoted men and good Zionists had played a leading role. Work at 
that time had been mainly based on propaganda and on collecting 
modest funds from Russian Zionists, also on establishing small com- 
panies that more often than not went bankrupt after a short time, 
and on negotiations with Turkish officials of the old school. Modern 
methods were unknown, and the dimensions of the work were small 
and undaring. Nobody certainly not Weizmann would underrate 
the achievements of this period. But it was a misunderstanding to 
assume that one could continue in the same way under a British 
administration. This created a delicate situation, apt to hurt the 
susceptibilities of a great number of good and loyal men who for 
many years had been Weizmann's comrades in the fight for Zionism. 
Many of these people did not see their own limitations and firmly 
believed that the old Zionist veterans were the right men to give advice 
and to stand at the helm. Weizmann painfully sensed the shortcomings 
of his crew, and he was always looking round to find more suitable 



i8o 1919-1929 

men for the practical jobs, mainly in the Western world, even if the 
people in question had not been Zionists before and did not know all 
the subtleties of Zionist philosophy. At one stage Weizmann persuaded 
Angelo Levi-Bianchini, a first-class man of great abilities and experi- 
ence who had filled important appointments as an Italian Navy 
officer and diplomat, to become the head of the Zionist Immigration 
Department. Disastrously, Levi-Bianchini (forgotten today) was 
killed in Deraa in Transjordan in August 1920 in an Arab attack on 
a diplomatic train. But I still remember Weizmann exclaiming in 
despair: C I can have Levi-Bianchini, and they want to force me to 
take SheinkinP (a veteran Russian Zionist). 

Of the men assembled at that time in London, only Bertold Feiwel 
and Julius Simon had some understanding of practical requirements. 
Julius Simon prepared a detailed colonization plan, assisted by an 
ingenious mystery man, Abraham Sonne. But the more such plans 
were composed in theory, the more the difficulties became apparent. 
A system of financing the work could only be found with the 
abundant participation of American Jewry, and perhaps through 
the co-operation of a class of wealthy Jews in Western Europe, though 
these had been opponents of Zionism (with a few notable exceptions 
such as Baron Edmond de Rothschild). But when the Conference 
assembled in 1920, it slowly became clear that no concerted plan of 
practical value would come out of It. It was an absurdity at that junc- 
ture: masses of delegates from revolution-stricken Eastern Europe 
came to London under completely false illusions, expecting that here 
in London there would be offered a ready-to-wear Jewish State to 
which one could address one's wishes and demands, most of them 
activist and socialist. On the other hand there was the American 
faction, a mixtum compositum from the two groups indicated above, 
but under a strong leadership and a unifying whip. Seen from Weiz- 
mann's angle, these people came mainly to criticize the only man 
who actually had performed a spectacular feat. His outburst: 'Jewish 
people, what have you done?' struck a note that dominated the scene 
for many years to come. 

The two great issues that emerged after 1920 and that in some res- 
pect are interrelated, are (a) the political situation and the so-called 
Arab problem, and (6) the mobilization of Jewish forces for the 
building up of the National Home by enlisting the co-operation of 
non-Zionist Jews who were to be made to share the responsibility by 
joining the Jewish Agency set up in Article 4 of the Palestine 
Mandate. 
Both these matters were the central points on which the battles 



THE FABIAN DECADE l8l 

within the Zionist Organization and at the Congresses had to be 
fought. They practically filled the whole inner history of the Zionist 
movement until 1929, when both reached a climax: one a successful 
conclusion in a glorious setting, the other a tragic explosion that 
brought about a turn for the worse. 

If we decide to regard the Zionist Congress as a 'parliament', 
Weizmann had no steady majority there. His election as President 
and leader was unavoidable because he was the movement; without 
him everything would have collapsed the next day. But in order to 
bring this election about all sorts of parliamentary manoeuvres had 
to be executed, and in controversial matters a compromise formula 
often had to be found that could be interpreted in a way only just 
acceptable to Weizmann, though not in the sense originally intended. 
Sometimes, he left the Congress in despair while the factions were 
still horse-trading in committees, and without awaiting his actual 
election. 

Weizmann could rely only on a section of the General Zionists, 
primarily British, American and Central European, and on the 
Labour camp, which vitally depended on fund-raising for the con- 
tinuation of its activities in Palestine. The decisive stage of Zionist 
activity during the 'twenties was, quite consistently, the immediate 
settlement of large tracts of land, which could be reclaimed partly 
from big Arab landowners and partly from the Government and had 
to be made fit for colonization by sanitation, drainage, irrigation, etc, 
and at the same time the provision of work for immigrants. The 
Halutzim were in fact the best human element available for Pales- 
tine, if not the only one. Palestine had no attraction for the capitalist 
eager for profit, nor could the Jewish even Zionist middle class do 
much, except buy plantations or set up shops, all important but not 
fundamental. 

Palestine was a pioneer country. The would-be settlers, preferring 
communal work and imbued with socialist ideas, trusted that some 
public authority, the Government or the Zionist Commission, would 
provide them with all that was necessary: sustenance, land and tools. 
This task the Zionist Organization claimed for itself; it never 
occurred to it to concede that authority to the Mandatory Govern- 
ment. But when it came to actual fulfilment it was revealed that the 
Organization had no money, not even for the most restricted pro- 
gramme of acquisition of land and settlement. Weizmann knew that 
the provision of this money was also the supreme political necessity, 
and that defection would not only be a setback to the Halutz on 
whose idealism the movement depended, but also teach the Man- 
datory Government that Zionism need not be taken seriously. The 



Itf2 1919-1929 

Government itself, in the vice of an economy campaign after 
the war, was not prepared to spend money for purely Jewish 
purposes. 

The Labour parties, organizers of the early waves of immigration, 
were well aware that their work could not exist without large public 
funds, and that Weizmann was the only leader capable of raising 
them. So they were bound to him and stood by him at the Congresses, 
though not always in a gracious way. Often they felt obliged to make 
all sorts of declarations and reservations lest they be regarded as less 
nationalistic or extremist in their aims than the Opposition, or in 
order to save their 'socialist 3 souls while co-operating with 'bour- 
geois'. In the end, Labour was always part of the parliamentary 
majority required for the continuance of the Weizmann regime; the 
religious party of Mizrachi could in most cases be conditioned by 
their own Halutz section, and /or by some 'bribe' in the form of seats 
in the Executive or allocations in the budget. So Weizmann always 
formally had a majority until 1931, even though the Opposition 
dominated the Congresses. A large part of his supporters were, in 
fact, a sort of opposition manque. 

By the 1920 Conference Weizmann already knew that the most 
urgent action was a popular appeal for money, which under the cir- 
cumstances had to be addressed primarily to American Jewry. He 
was persuaded by leading Russian Zionists like Naidich and Zlatopol- 
sky that the best way would be an appeal for large sums in analogy 
to the old Biblical principle of Maasser: one-tenth of everybody's 
private income should be given as voluntary taxation for the purpose 
of the National Home. This was, of course, a futile idea to which not 
only the Brandeis group but also other sober minds who preferred 
realistic thinking were reluctant to agree. Finally, the rhetorical in- 
clination of some Americans, even Dr Silver, kept the upper hand; 
one did not hesitate to proclaim a target of 25,000,000 sterling 
for which not the slightest prospect existed. The Keren Hayesod was 
born. Most clauses of its charter were equally unreal and never took 
effect Weizmann did not care for the details of the scheme. The 
main point was that immediate funds should be forthcoming. So he 
plunged into this project, brushed aside all objections that inter- 
fered with the immediate raising of 'national', ie public as distinct 
from private funds, and later embarked upon his pilgrimage to the 
Jewish masses in America in the hope of finding support there also, 
at least among some of the wealthier Jews. That had to have priority 
over attempts to attract private means for investment, since private 
business also presupposed some general adjustments that could not 
yield profits, such as the preparation of the soil and of the men, 



THE FABIAN DECADE 183 

institutions for health and education, and so on, which had to be 
made out of public funds, a fond perdu. 

Weizmann had come to the 1920 Conference with the idea of en- 
larging the circle of interested people, especially businessmen, who 
could be useful both as the bearers of private initiative and for 
inspiring confidence as to the solidity of economic policy. But at the 
Conference he had to overcome the one-sided views of those who 
wanted to put all the stakes on private initiative, although he knew 
that some of their views were sound. This was the background to the 
unfortunate conflict with Louis Brandeis, which was one of the most 
fateful results of the Conference. 

There was, perhaps, a psychological predicament that contributed 
to the split. Weizmann became irritated when other men, among 
them those whom he for one reason or another regarded as his 
antagonists, expressed views that were in fact similar to his own, but 
that he himself could not easily put forth because he saw also the 
other side of the matter, which the others ignored. He also thoroughly 
disliked the puritan type of American Jew, which was humourless 
and moralizing and often seemed self-righteous. So he was alienated 
from two men with whom he had many views in common but with 
whom he was unable to co-operate: Louis Brandeis and Judah 
Magnes. They were in some way representative of the two main 
objectives of Zionism : Brandeis in the quest for new men outside the 
Zionist Organization and for an economic programme, Magnes in the 
field of Arab policy. Much of the period 1919-1929 was embittered 
by Weizmann's resentment against these men. 

The events of the Annual Conference of 1920 were a riddle to many 
who could not see what was going on behind the scenes and in the 
irrational sphere of personal susceptibilities and rivalries. Brandeis 
came to London, after his visit to Palestine, convinced as indeed 
was Weizmann that the new era with its completely new tasks 
demanded a thorough overhaul of the Zionist apparatus, from both 
the personal and the organizational side. He also stressed that the 
settlements, and indeed the Yishuv, should become self-supporting as 
quickly as possible. Businesslike management was a conditio sine 
qua non } otherwise colonization would become a bottomless barrel. 
Nothing was more obvious to Weizmann himself. Brandeis, like Weiz- 
mann, wished to acquire the services of men of stature in economic 
life, who were accustomed to bear great financial responsibility and 
understood the necessity to balance a budget. There were certain 
obvious candidates for the purpose, although nobody knew whether 
they would be prepared to answer the call. It was clear that no con- 



l8 4 i9i 

ditions of ideological identification could be put to such men. They 
would have to be recruited as experts, as partners in a fascinating 
enterprise of building a new society to which they would be attracted 
because of their Jewish feeling of solidarity. Weizmann himself con- 
ducted negotiations with men like Lord Reading, Sir Alfred Mond, 
Sir Robert Waley-Cohen, all first-rank businessmen in the City of 
London. They were prepared to collaborate as non-Zionists although, 
as shown later, only to a certain extent. It is, however, difficult to 
decide whether at that early stage it would have been possible to get 
them more fully committed, and engaged in economic planning and 
execution, if the response from the Zionist side had been more en- 
couraging. Brandeis wanted to transform the Zionist Organization so 
that these people could become members. As a matter of fact, it 
quickly became clear that the Zionist movement was not in a mood 
to invite non-Zionists to collaborate. Most Zionists at that time still 
regarded the struggle of ideas within the Jewish camp as their main 
task. After recognition by the British Government they felt that vic- 
tory had been theirs. They were not prepared to share this glory 
with their distrusted enemies of yesterday. Moreover, a new era of 
democracy had dawned in all human affairs; the messages of 
America and Moscow were moulding a new world. It seemed obvious 
to most of the Zionists, especially those from Eastern Europe, that 
they could not possibly now give an honoured standing to the 
* notables' who had hitherto rejected Jewish nationalism and ruled 
the Jewish institutions in an autocratic way. The first hints of Weiz- 
mann in this direction aroused anger and suspicion in the ranks. 
Brandeis proclaimed, certainly erroneously, that with the achieve- 
ment of the Balfour Declaration analogous to Herzl's 'Charter 3 
the political era of Zionism had come to an end, and what was 
needed now was expert work according to strict business principles. 
This oversimplification angered Weizmann, who knew that the 
Balfour Declaration was not the end of the struggle, and that its 
preservation would be at least as difficult to secure as its proclamation 
had been in war time. Brandeis incurred the wrath of other delega- 
tions when his Reform Plan was understood to imply the dissolution 
of time-honoured institutions dear to their hearts. Brandeis deeply 
resented Weizmann's separatist negotiations which were directed 
toward the establishment of an Economic Council without jurisdiction 
in Zionist political affairs. He also naturally declined a suggestion 
that he should resign his office as a Justice of the US Supreme Court 
to become a professional Zionist leader. The views of Brandeis and 
Weizmann were so divergent that a split in the movement was 
inevitable. 



THE FABIAN DECADE 185 

No real reform resulted from the Conference, and once again 
Weizmann had to lean heavily on Yiddish-speaking East Side Ameri- 
cans. A compromise was reached for the composition of the London 
Executive to which Julius Simon and Nehemia de Lieme were elected 
for the outspoken purpose of carrying out the necessary reorganiza- 
tion in Palestine. Despite Brandeis' objections Ussishkin was elected 
as head of the Palestine Executive. Later, when the Report of the 
Simon-de Lieme Reorganization Commission appeared, it was met 
with fierce hostility in Palestine by the people with vested interests, 
and sabotaged throughout. It had, in fact, to be abandoned, and 
Weizmann had to part from such old friends as Julius Simon and 
to ally himself with men of the more popular Zionist tradition and 
with extremists like Jabotinsky an unnatural alliance that could not 
last. 

In America the split seemed at one moment to have brought a fatal 
disruption into the movement. But with the Convention of the 
Zionist Organization of America that took place in Cleveland in 
1921 the leadership passed to Louis Lipsky. Himself American-born, 
and completely at home in the English-speaking tradition, he rallied 
to himself both the Yiddish-speaking segment of the movement and 
a considerable part of the 'Americanized' elements in a repudiation 
of the Brandeis concept of Zionist development. For more than two 
decades, Lipsky was to remain Weizmann's key supporter in America. 
For a considerable period men like Stephen Wise, Julian Mack and 
Abba Hillel Silver held out against the popular will, but ultimately 
their opposition faded, and Wise and Silver especially went on to 
become influential leaders of American Zionism. 

It was only logical that in the period following the 1921 Zionist 
Congress Weizmann became a 'Brandeis' to many of the men who 
had supported him at an earlier stage and now found him lacking 
in what they understood as democracy and radicalism. Like Brandeis, 
he was considered to be undermining the Movement's nationalist 
foundations. The Congress majority had forced him to accept a 
scheme envisaging the enlargement of the Agency by 'democratic' 
procedures instead of including self-appointed notables who were not 
democratically elected. For this purpose it was proposed to call a 
World Congress freely elected by Jews the world over a sort of 
duplication of the Zionist Congress, especially as the franchise was 
to be linked to all kinds of basic nationalist creeds. Weizmann 
was sceptical. He knew that such a Congress would be opposed 
by all who feared the anti-Semites' insinuation of Jewish inter- 
national conspiracy. If it were possible at all, it would not yield a 
genuine reinforcement of Zionist strength. It would bring in, 



i86 1919-1929 

under a different name, the same kind of men who were already 
Zionists. 

When it became clear that Weizmann was determined to proceed 
with his Jewish Agency plan and had already started negotiations in 
America and elsewhere, two of the Congress 'parties'. Revisionists 
under Jabotinsky and Lichtheim, and Radicals under Izhak Grun- 
baum and Nahum Goldmann, declared war on him. It came to 
tumultuous scenes at the Congresses and finally to the resignation of 
Jabotinsky, Lichtheim and Soloveichik. The Revisionist party was 
formed in 1925 under the leadership of Jabotinsky mainly for the 
purpose of conducting an activist policy, a 'political offensive' 
against the Mandatory Power, to obtain the right to form a Jewish 
Legion (a military force) and what they called a 'Colonization 
Regime*. They argued that these extremist nationalist aims could be 
attained only by a radically nationalist leadership, and that for this 
reason Weizmann's scheme of including non-Zionists in the Jewish 
Agency had to be rejected. It may be assumed that Weizmann in his 
innermost feelings even had some sympathy with some of the Revi- 
sionists' political grievances. He often had to wrangle with the British 
more bitterly than any of his colleagues. But he knew from his own 
experience how absurdly futile it was to expect an improvement of 
the position by a political offensive of the sort the Revisionists had in 
mind. He also knew that it was hopeless to get, for such a militant 
programme, Jewish backing substantial enough to impress the British 
Government. Times had changed; there were no war-time condi- 
tions; the Zionist movement alone was weak and in permanent 
danger of financial collapse. No, this was not the way; one had to 
look for other means. 

Before the Agency was constituted the Zionist forces were 
strengthened by the co-operation of prominent Jews and Jewish 
bodies within the 'neutral 5 organization of the Keren Hayesod, which 
had assumed a special standing under its own Board of Directors, 
with its own branches in all countries, and played a very important 
r61e during the 'twenties. It even developed its own philosophy. Kurt 
Blumenfeld, one of its most successful leaders in Germany, himself 
an uncompromising Zionist and staunch Weizmannist, developed the 
idea that the Keren Hayesod was a meeting-ground for Zionists and 
non-Zionists for practical and unpolitical purposes while each of 
them retained the freedom of his own views and political action out- 
side the Keren Hayesod, especially in local Jewish life. He called it 
Biindnispolitik a policy of alliance. So the way was paved for col- 
laboration within the Agency. It is arguable that the independent 
fund-raising instructions created an organizational confusion, but that 



THE FABIAN DECADE 187 

was partly the result of the fact that in many respects the Zionist 
Congress, with its ever-growing party strife, proved unworkable. 

The resistance to the enlargement of the Jewish Agency was only one 
side of the overestimation of Zionist power and potentialities after 
the Balfour Declaration. The other side, much more momentous, was 
the misunderstanding of political realities. In face of the general 
trend of proclaiming the self-determination and liberation of coun- 
tries and peoples en masse, the exaggerated propaganda in conjunc- 
tion with the Balfour Declaration had created a fantastic notion that 
the Jews, with their aspiration to long-withheld national existence, 
were on the same level as the Czechs, Poles, Croats, Lithuanians and 
heaven knows what else. All these had achieved the transfer of power 
in their own territory, where they had lived under foreign rule for 
centuries. It goes without saying that the case of the Jews was com- 
pletely different. Moreover, not even the majority of Jewish 
nationalists, let alone of the Jews in general, were agreed that Pales- 
tine should be their National Home in a literal sense. They inter- 
preted their nationalism in terms of 'national autonomy' in the 
territories where they lived, especially in the new East European 
states. For some short time it even seemed that there would be a 
democratic Russia, in any case a democratic Ukraine, where a huge 
Jewish national Congress was held before the Bolshevik victory put 
an end to these dreams. 

It remains a matter for speculation how the emergence of a demo- 
cratic Russia in accordance with the hopes attached to the revolu- 
tionary government of the liberal Kadets, of Prince Lvov and 
Kerensky would have influenced Jewish destiny. With its immense 
material and intellectual potentialities, freely and fully developing, 
it would possibly have attracted the best forces of the Jewish people 
and have promoted both assimilation (in the old sense) and Jewish 
nationalism, perhaps a blossoming of Jewish (and Hebrew) culture 
whose centres, even under Tsarist oppression, had always been in 
Odessa, Vilna and Warsaw. It would also have made possible the 
active participation of Russian Jews, with all their tradition of 
Hibbat ^ion, in the building up of Palestine. One may assume that 
Russian Jews would have become rich (some of them were before 
1917) and would have contributed materially as much as American 
Jewry or more. Undoubtedly they would have provided an in- 
exhaustible army of pioneers in all walks of life, perhaps more than 
they did anyhow when Russian Halutzim came to the shores of 
Palestine as fugitives from the Bolsheviks. Such speculations, not 
foreign to Weizmann's mind, are, alas, futile. 



i88 1919-1929 

As it was, however, under the impact of the nationalist and socialist 
upheaval in Eastern Europe, the Jewish masses regarded Palestine 
as their state, to whose dominion they were entitled like the Poles in 
Poland. It is true that the British Government had promised a 
National Home, identified with a state not only in the Jewish mind 
but in the mind of many highly placed statesmen, with some vague- 
ness. But there were almost no Jews in Palestine, and there was an 
Arab population. And even in 1920 not many Jews except the 
refugees from Russia and the Zionist pioneer (Halutz) movements 
were prepared to transfer their own domicile to an unknown and 
backward land. In any case, the settlement of a new population was 
a slow and painful process, with political, economic, financial and 
psychological implications. All these factors, political as well as 
financial, could, by their failure, halt the whole development at any 
moment. What could be done to prevent that? What power was in 
the hands of the Jews? 

Faced with the grumbling crowd of Zionist critics who blamed 
their leader for the failure of reality to come up to their dreams, 
Weizmann was aware that his only weapon was the appeal to the 
goodwill of the British and the invocation of their solemn pledge. 
This pledge could be regarded as legally binding, in so far as it was 
legalized, under British pressure, by the Peace Conference, later 
by the San Remo Conference and finally by the confirmation of 
the Mandate by the League of Nations. Then as now not too 
much reliance could be placed on so-called international law. 
Apart from the fact that it was subject to interpretation and could 
be whittled away (as the National Home idea actually was at a 
later stage), the whole concept of international law was doubtful. 
There was always a chance to claim a change of circumstances or 
physical inability to fulfil a pledge. International relations are 
kept by the balance of power and not by juridical clauses, except 
where these conform with the interests and goodwill of the power 
concerned. 

Weizmann knew he had to convince the British, daily, that the 
implementation of the Balfour Declaration was both in the British 
interest and a moral necessity. But he had to grapple with almost 
insurmountable odds. True, Britain was interested in keeping Pales- 
tine against the French, and she could not abandon the chief pretext 
for the occupation of the country. But the unexpected vehemence of 
Arab nationalism created an entirely new situation, and it was no 
secret that many prominent British men and women played a 
leading part in encouraging that nationalism. Still more were 
impressed by it. In the first period of military occupation in 1918, 



THE FABIAN DECADE l8g 

Zionism was regarded as complete nonsense by the generals. With a 
few exceptions, like Colonel Meinertzhagen and Wyndham Deedes, 
they treated it as non-existent. They saw primarily the inhabitants of 
the country, with whom they had come to terms as all military rulers 
must when they have to replace the conquered authority. Most offi- 
cials were hostile or indifferent. The Moslem-Christian Committee in 
Palestine represented the great majority of the population, and the 
Arabs invoked the pledges of the Allies who had promised freedom 
and self-determination to the population as late as on 8 November 
1918. Moreover, the transition from war to peace was not as smooth 
as expected. There was turmoil in Central Europe, disunity among 
the Allies, conflicting nationalist claims everywhere (symbolized by 
the case of Fiume). The construction of Arab kingdoms went awry, 
all plans had to be reshuffled again and again, local tribes rose not 
only against British rule, but also against the sort of Arab regime the 
British had in mind. 

At that time, the British public was war-weary and not prepared 
to continue the fight for unwanted British rule in distant places. A 
powerful agitation at home demanded the liquidation of all British 
commitments in the Middle East. British newspapers shouted daily 
that Britain should not make additional sacrifices but clear out of the 
Middle East 'bag and baggage'. The resurrection of the Turkish 
nation in 1922 and its spectacular victory over the British-backed 
Greeks changed the whole outlook in that region. In spite of his anti- 
religious attitude, Kemal Ataturk's campaign aroused the admiration 
of Moslems, the more so when he proclaimed that he had no inten- 
tion of restoring the Ottoman Empire or of dominating other peoples. 
The British had to abandon the Greeks despite the promises given 
them by Lloyd George, who himself had to resign over this issue. And 
he had been the head of the Cabinet that had given another pledge, 
the Balfour Declaration! Balfour's chair was now that of Lord 
Curzon, a quite different character, not at all too fond of the Zionist 
experiment. 

The international constellation was ignored by those who attacked 
Dr Weizmann. He alone knew better than anyone else how delicate 
it was. He was haunted by apprehensions lest more active opposition 
on the side of the Arabs lead to a similar treatment of the Zionists as 
the Greeks suffered in 1922 and the Armenians had suffered before, 
namely, that under changed circumstances pledges could not be 
implemented. This had to be avoided at all costs. Only a moderate 
policy, which though sticking to fundamental rights did not push the 
British into an impasse, could hope to keep British goodwill and 
understanding. There was no prospect of a steady addition of politi- 



igo 1919-1929 

cal rights; the maximum that could be hoped for was to prevent a 
turn for the worse. 

That is what Weizmann, after the most severe crisis Zionism had 
to overcome, said at the Karlsbad Zionist Congress in 1923: *I am 
not ashamed to say: I have no successes to produce. After the Man- 
date there will be no political successes for years. Those political 
successes which you want you will have to gain by your own work in 
the Emek, in the marshes and on the hills, not in the offices of Down- 
ing Street. It is sufficient if your diplomatic representative (if you 
insist on this description) can hold the position. On political offensives 
at least my own humble person will not embark, even at the risk of 
being regarded by some of you as a coward.' 

The years following the Annual Conference of 1920 were in fact a 
time of 'crisis in permanence'. There was a double crisis, political and 
economic. We shall deal with each in brief separately. 

The political crisis dragged on because the confirmation of the 
Mandate by the League of Nations was postponed for three years, 
and in the meantime all kinds of attacks were made against it in 
order to prevent its legalisation, not only by the Arabs who submitted 
petitions and even proceeded to threats, but also by other interested 
parties (some as mighty as the Vatican). While at home vociferous 
protests in press and Parliament were raised against the waste of c the 
taxpayer's money* on troublesome adventures in the Middle East 
the Government expenditure in Palestine alone amounted in the 
fiscal year 1920-21 to 8,000,000 the situation in the Arab coun- 
tries remained confused. In March 1921 Colonial Secretary Winston 
Churchill summoned his Eastern experts to Cairo, and they decided 
to enthrone Feisal in Iraq and establish a separate state in Trans- 
jordan under his brother Abdulla. The Pesach holiday in Palestine, 
which had caused disturbances in 1920, passed without incident in 
1921, but on i May, a Jewish May Day demonstration, which was 
misunderstood or intentionally misinterpreted by the Arabs, was the 
signal for a well-prepared Arab assault. The Jewish immigration 
centre in Jaffa was stormed and many Jews killed, among them the 
writer J. Ch. Brenner, who had always advocated peaceful relations 
with the Arabs. Other acts of violence followed in several colonies, 
and the Jewish population of Jaffa fled to Tel Aviv. It was clear that 
the police had not done a proper job against the attacking mob and 
that a great deal of responsibility fell upon the Government. The 
indignation of the Jewish public was justified. When, in order to 
appease the Arabs, Sir Herbert Samuel on 3 June (the King's birth- 
day) made a speech in which he interpreted the Balfour Declaration 



THE FABIAN DECADE igj 

in a very^ restrictive sense and proclaimed a temporary stopping of 
immigration, the Zionist world was in uproar and against Weiz- 
mann, too. Yet in retrospect it remains a fact that after the reassuring 
explanation to the Arabs there was no further outbreak in the coun- 
try until 1929, and Jewish colonization could calmly proceed as far 
as its own financial resources permitted. 

The Royal Commission of Inquiry appointed by the British Gov- 
ernment under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Thomas Haycraft, 
condemned Arab violence, blamed the attitude of the police and 
criticized the Palestine administration. At the same time it set the 
pattern for all following Commissions of Inquiry by analysing the 
underlying causes of the outbreak. It hinted that the misgivings of 
the Arabs may not have been entirely groundless, and it recom- 
mended a policy of safeguards to the Arabs in order to dispel their 
understandable fear of being displaced by the newcomers. After that 
the British Government had constantly to defend the Mandate 
against a hostile public opinion by pointing out that it did not imply 
a displacement of the Arab population nor special privileges to Jews 
(a negation of the very meaning it had in the eyes of Zionists) and 
that the Jews would not have a share in the government of the 
country. The summary of this campaign was embodied in the White 
Paper (Cmd 1700) on 22 June 1922, which contained the Corres- 
pondence of the Government with the Arab Executive and with the 
Zionist Organization as well as the so-called Churchill Statement 
(which was actually drafted by Samuel). It was perhaps a personal 
rebuff to Weizmann (which he bore with dignity) that his remark at 
the Peace Conference that Palestine should be as Jewish as England 
English, widely publicized by Zionist propaganda, was explicitly 
refuted. The Statement made it clear that the Jews would have no 
right to impose their nationality on the non- Jewish inhabitants of the 
country, nor would they have any governmental functions except in 
the management of their own communal affairs. The Jews must 
know, however, that they were in Palestine e as of right and not on 
sufferance'. Neither the Jews nor the Arabs should think they de- 
pended on sufferance by the other side. Both communities should 
be entitled to develop their national and cultural life without inter- 
ference, and they should live peacefully side by side, while all affairs 
concerning the country as a whole were administered by the 
Mandatory Power. The 'Statement' as it stood was not a 'Zionist 
victory'. It did not underwrite extremist Zionist aspirations, it did 
not conform with messianic hopes. But it was an attempt to give as 
fair a chance to both sides as could be done. This was intended to 
satisfy the sense of justice which the liberal world on which the 



192 1919-1929 

Jews had to rely applied to a problem that was not a contest 
between right and wrong but between right and right. The Arabs 
rejected it. They could afford non-co-operation as they were sitting 
on the spot and needed no change; in any case they enjoyed much 
better conditions than under Turkish rule. Moreover, their wish to 
introduce * democracy' majority rule was in accord with the 
general trend of opinion created by Wilsonism; they had never had 
democracy before. As to the Zionists, they had no choice but to 
accept the British declaration. It obscured their image of the goal, 
at least for the time being, but it did not close the door to immigra- 
tion and settlement. Its limitation to 'economic capacity' seemed 
reasonable unless it was interpreted in too static terms. The Zionists 
themselves were not interested in exceeding the economic capacity 
and in creating a crisis for themselves that would result in something 
Arab opposition alone could not achieve, namely the stoppage of 
further immigration for mere economic reasons. 

Doubtless grinding their teeth, the Zionist Executive agreed to the 
Statement as a basis for practical policy, though probably with a 
mental reservation as to the ultimate aim. All members of the Execu- 
tive signed the document, including Jabotinsky. Later Jabotinsky 
explained that he had signed under pressure, believing that otherwise 
the Mandate would not be confirmed. But his colleagues whom he 
condemned, had been in the same position! In this whole desperate 
struggle for salvaging the war-time achievements, whose burden lay 
primarily on Weizmann, the motive for concessions was always to 
choose the lesser evil. Revisionists and others afterwards demanded 
the withdrawal of the Executive's agreement to the Churchill State- 
ment. That was easy demagogy for those in opposition. Weizmann, 
bearing the responsibility for the survival of Zionism, could not 
afford it. 

The Mandatory Government continued its efforts to win the Arabs 
over for some sort of toleration of the Mandate and of Zionism. They 
offered them concessions intended to improve their standing and 
remove their feeling of inferiority. One such proposal was the forma- 
tion of an 'Arab Agency', corresponding to the 'Jewish Agency' a 
logical misconception, of course, since the Jewish Agency represented 
an international and not a local factor. But if that would satisfy the 
Arabs and create a workable parallelism for the sake of positive co- 
operation of both peoples, it would have been practical. Weizmann 
was inclined to a flexible policy if it brought some progress. The 
Arabs rejected it; they were not prepared to accept anything short 
of full democracy. 

So the political crisis continued unabated. The Arabs won influen- 



THE FABIAN DECADE 193 

tial friends the world over, especially in London, and the Zionist 
Executive had to be continuously on guard. 

It is only natural that Weizmann considered everything that could 
bring some kind of modus vivendi with the Arabs. It was difficult 
because the Arabs themselves were split, the situation in Arab coun- 
tries was chaotic, and there was no authorized Arab leadership. One 
man seemed to be both representative and reasonable: Emir Abdul- 
lah. He was a shrewd politician, not blinded by illusions, though 
naturally an Arab patriot, and he saw the advantages that could 
accrue to the Arab cause by coming to an arrangement with the 
Zionists and also promoting the swift building up of such backward 
Arab regions as Transjordan. He had a modern concept of federation 
and autonomy, based on the unity of the Fertile Crescent. At one 
moment it seemed as though there were a possibility of an Abdullah- 
Weizmann axis, a continuation of the Weizmann-Feisal accord of 
1918-19. It would have implied some modification of the conception 
of an isolated Jewish state, of course; but it would have opened the 
road to an entirely different development of the Middle East and to 
an incomparable expansion of Jewish activity and immigration. It 
was an idea worthy of statesmen of the greatest stature. But it 
came to nothing after silly press reports unleashed premature 
rumours. There was also some suspicion that the British did not like 
this form of rapprochement, which would have made them super- 
fluous. Anyhow, this 'red herring* gave rise to another explosion of 
indignation in the ranks of Zionists who were persuaded that Weiz- 
mann wanted to e give up' something of the pure national ideal. 

Perhaps the most important and most enlightening speech of the 
whole period was made by Dr Weizmann at the Twenty-sixth Annual 
Convention of the Zionist Organization of America on 17 June 1923, 
in Baltimore. At this decisive conference Weizmann's policy had been 
under strong attack, but was finally approved with a big majority. 
After the vote Weizmann took the floor at 2 AM. He started by repeat- 
ing his own famous saying of 1920: 'Jewish people, what have you 
done?* He explained the position in Palestine where 'starving 
Halutzim and unpaid teachers are destroying the Mandate 3 and that 
it would be foolish to believe that against this situation we could 
appeal to British bayonets. He said that former non-Zionists were 
converted to Zionism not by the Balfour Declaration, but by the 
idealism and sacrifices of 30,000 Halutzim, Finally, he answered the 
critics who had accused him of selling out Zionism to the Arabs. He 
said: 

For years we have drafted political resolutions that we Jews want 

to live in peace with the Arabs. We have passed resolutions which 



194 1919-1929 

have the character of a pledge. But as soon as it comes to taking 
decisive and effective steps to carry out those resolutions, because 
the realization of all these problems is a question of life or death 
of our work In Palestine, one is attacked from all sides. A clamour 
is raised that one sells out to the Arabs or to someone else all that 
is sacred to Zionism. It should be clear to our great politicians that 
one cannot put off the Arabs with empty talk. For years we have 
made decisions, and whatever the Jewish National Home will 
ultimately become, even if it absorbs millions of Jews and if, as I 
hope, there will be a Jewish majority in Palestine, it will never- 
theless remain an island in the Arab sea. We have to come to an 
understanding with this people which is akin to us and with which 
we have lived in concord in the past. Naturally it would be better 
if Palestine and the neighbouring countries were unpopulated. It 
would be better still if the Nile flowed there instead of the Jordan, 
better still if Moses had led us to America instead of Palestine, 
better still if we had to deal with Englishmen and not with Jews. 
But we have to deal with Jews, and in Eretz Israel there is the 
Jordan, and there is a people which resists our coming and which 
holds Palestine encircled from north and south, east and west, 
and with it we have to arrange ourselves in a serious way. This can 
be done by reason and by faith of political honesty; for these are 
the strongest weapons a single man possesses. 

Actually, the silver lining on the horizon of Arab- Jewish relations 
quickly faded away. The attempt to find some common ground with 
leading Arabs, mainly supported by a group of old-established Jewish 
pre-war settlers whose co-operation Weizmann at that time thought 
useful, yielded no positive result. Neither did the negotiations that 
Colonel Kisch in Palestine and sometimes also the London Executive 
conducted with so-called moderate Arabs. All of them rejected the 
Balfour Declaration. The extremists, under the leadership of the 
Mufti, got the upper hand. Some Zionists, especially of the Socialist 
wing, put forth the theory that one could not negotiate with the 
reactionary effendi class because they feared the progressive influ- 
ence of Zionism, which might undermine their social standing. As a 
matter of fact, the old Arab guard, whose authority was rapidly 
waning, was more susceptible to argument and more interested in 
peaceful development than the younger generation with its modern 
views of democracy. As soon as the radical nationalism and anti- 
colonialism which seized all Asian (and in our days African) peoples 
after the first World War, began preoccupying the Arabs too, the 
prospects of an understanding dwindled away. Arab policy became 



THE FABIAN DECADE 195 

increasingly intransigent. It will never be possible to determine 
whether there were genuine chances of an Arab- Jewish accord in the 
early 'twenties. Weizmann regarded it as his duty to explore all lanes 
in this direction, but, as stated above, he was not supported by the 
majority of Zionists, who had been brought up in the philosophy of 
exclusive nationalism; and at least in later years, Arab intransigence, 
often encouraged by Western influences, made a rapprochement 
unfeasible. 

Apart from the political troubles, the period was dominated by the 
permanent economic crisis. It is difficult to imagine the conditions of 
workers in the 'twenties, when today (1962) even the slightest hint of 
a possible freezing of over-inflated wages in Israel gives rise to com- 
plaints and bitterness. Unemployment was a regular feature, workers 
lived on an appalling minimum, often on the dole, which was a 
heavy unproductive drain on the Zionist Exchequer. There was 
genuine starvation in the communal settlements and elsewhere, 
Zionist money-chests were empty, officials and teachers did not get 
their salaries and were finally paid by some paper-bills issued by 
institutions or even by private persons; debts accumulated every- 
where. The first waves of immigration were followed by stagnation 
and even emigration (1923) not for political reasons. The Executive 
had again and again to adopt emergency measures in order to pre- 
vent a complete breakdown, and no serious projects could be 
initiated for development and extension of settlement. 

The unfavourable trend was temporarily relieved in 1924-25, 
when a large number of middle-class immigrants arrived, primarily 
from Poland, where the new financial laws of Grabski had resulted 
in a heavy deterioration of the situation of Jewish traders. This so- 
called * Fourth Aliyah' led to violent intra-Zionist disputes, since 
Labour circles feared they would lose their monopoly and privileged 
position. They charged the new immigrants with simply transferring 
the small shops of the Polish Jewish Shtetl into Palestine, thus im- 
perilling the ideal of a social as well as national renewal of the 
Jewish people through the creation of a new type of Jew, the working 
man living on his own soil The influx of a middle-class element with 
private means also had one undesirable side-effect : the spreading of 
land speculation. Unfortunately, there were some dishonest agents 
who sold to would-be immigrants in Poland at exorbitant prices in 
advance plots of land that on the spot turned out to be quite different 
from what the buyer had been promised. Though perhaps only a few 
people were involved in such activities, it created a bad reputation 
for the Fourth Aliyah. 

Weizmann was strongly attacked by the exponents of the Fourth 



196 1919-1929 

Aliyah because he allegedly had spoken contemptuously of Dzika 
and Nalevki' 1 instead of realizing that it was only this element- 
typical of the Jewish masses of Poland that could transform Pales- 
tine into a densely populated area. Weizmann left no doubt that he 
could see no real prospect for a population consisting mainly of 
shopkeepers in overcrowded cities for whose existence there was no 
reasonable basis unless they went over to productive work in industry 
and agriculture (as some of them actually did). 

Those doubts were justified. After 1925 many of the people of the 
Fourth Aliyah were disappointed and went back to Poland. But 
nobody was more prepared than Weizmann to acknowledge the last- 
ing contribution that they, too, had made to the building up of 
the country. After the debacle of the Fourth Aliyah a new crisis 
developed. The labour settlements were affected and emigration 
reached a new peak in 1928 because there was no solid economic 
absorptive reservoir. In 1927, the Congress was confronted by the 
necessity of taking drastic steps to consolidate the settlements and 
make them self-supporting. This had to have priority over the 
launching of new enterprises and new deficits. 

It is impossible to describe in detail the vacillations of immigration 
and the financial crises during this whole period. It is relevant here 
only in so far as it affected Weizmann's activities; it was one of the 
main factors that forced him to occupy himself with the question of 
money. Circumstances in Palestine were not apt to change his view 
that all depended on solving the problem of finances; he saw this 
longed-for possibility first of all in the broadening of the top circle 
that bore the responsibility; in other words, in the enlargement of 
the Jewish Agency. 

Perhaps, in anticipation of later events, it may be allowed to say 
that the enlargement itself, when achieved in 1929, actually had 
more 'moral 5 than material importance. It symbolized the rallying 
behind the programme of the National Home of Jewish forces 
hitherto outside the Zionist movement. It did not stop the financial 
crises, which actually dragged on until two unexpected events, set 
in motion by deplorable causes, changed the situation fundament- 
ally: in 1933 the advent of German Jewish refugees with immense 
funds, private and public, and in 1940 the stationing in Palestine 
of the British Army with its unprecedented spending, from which all 
local earners profited. 

The paramount task, after the ratification of the Mandate, in addi- 
tion to committing the Jewish people as a whole to active personal 
1 Famous overcrowded streets in the pre-Hitler Jewish quarter of Warsaw. 



THE FABIAN DECADE igy 

and material participation in building the National Home, was the 
adaptation of practical work to the existing realities of Palestine. 
Innumerable times Weizmann explained his approach: 'I am a 
scientist, I know there are physical laws and facts which cannot be 
abolished by persuasion or by resolutions. One has to try to work 
with them and to use them to one's purpose. Their negation can only 
end in failure.' 

What were the realities of Palestine? Weizmann had said it at 
Baltimore with bitter irony. Palestine has a certain climate and a 
certain geographical position, it has stony ground and deserts, and it 
has an Arab population. We have not created the desert and we have 
not invented the Arabs. They are there. So we have to try to turn the 
desert into fertile country, and to live with the Arabs. We have also 
to reckon with the character of the Jews. It would be easier to 
colonize a country with Englishmen or with Danes. I still remember 
a scene in Weizmann's room in Great Russell Street in 1924, when 
he had a discussion with Professor Mead, a famous American agri- 
cultural expert from California who had been invited to study 
conditions in Palestine and to submit a plan for agricultural coloniza- 
tion. After describing all the difficulties and the requirements for 
making the land suitable for settlement, Mead finally came to the 
human factor and explained how important it would be to have 
settlers with an old peasant tradition, who had learned from child- 
hood how to till the soil. He said: 'It would be much better for your 
enterprise if you would employ Danish peasants instead of urban 
Jews.' Yet Zionism was an enterprise for the rehabilitation of a 
people and not for the colonization of a country! 

The majority of Zionists did not take notice of the presence of the 
Arabs. From the beginning, this had baffled such thinkers as Yizhak 
Epstein, Ahad Ha'am and others. In Zionist councils any mention 
of the Arabs aroused fury. The only faction that took the problem 
seriously were the Revisionists, but they saw the solution in military 
action. This seemed a fantastic proposition in 1922, and even if a 
Jewish Legion, which Jabotinsky described as the 'Alpha and Omega 
of Zionism', would have been victorious there would still have been a 
vacuum in Palestine, since no viable Jewish settlement existed. 

Weizmann knew that an attempt at military conquest could only 
result in a total defeat of Zionism. In addition, however, it contra- 
dicted his own moral feeling to establish a Jewish state, even if it 
had been possible, at the expense of another people. He respected the 
natural attachment of the Arab inhabitants to the soil of their fathers 
and to their homeland. Palestine was an underpopulated country 
and there should be room for the newcomers side by side with the 



ig8 1919-1929 

existing population, if proper measures were taken for the economic 
and technical development of the country. For 400 years of Turkish 
rule all modern progress had been neglected. Irrigation, sanitation, 
electrification, the construction of roads and ports, modern agricul- 
tural methods, evolution of industries, all these were the primary 
requirements. They were more important than political declarations 
which would be empty phrases as long as they remained unrelated to 
any living realities. In the meantime, pending the accomplishment 
of all these enterprises, for which immense capital, brains and toil 
were necessary, Weizmann knew that one has to be very cautious in 
political demands and should not provoke rebuffs that could only 
strengthen the opposite side. The existing political arrangements, 
including the position of the Jewish Agency, should suffice to enable 
the Jews to carry out their work, and the British administration, a 
modern Western administration, gave it a far better chance than they 
had had before, perhaps even better than an inexperienced Jewish 
administration could do. 

Jabotinsky believed that the political and general situation per- 
mitted, indeed required, the formation of a Jewish Legion for the 
conquest of the country, Weizmann had been one of the supporters 
of the Legion in 1917 (he even risked a serious estrangement from his 
master Ahad Ha'am on this account) ; this was during the first World 
War when consideration of neutrality, and concern for the position 
of Jews in enemy countries, i.e. Germany and Austria, was the main 
reason for opposing it. The situation in 1925 was quite different. At 
the 1925 Congress Weizmann said that he had originally sympathized 
with the Legion idea, but now considered it harmful. The key to the 
situation, he said, lay on a quite different level, c . . . in genuine friend- 
ship and co-operation with the Arabs to open the Near East for 
Jewish initiative . . . Palestine must be built up without violating the 
legitimate interests of the Arabs not a hair on their heads shall be 
touched. The Zionist Congress must not confine itself to platonic 
formulae. It has to learn the truth that Palestine is not Rhodesia 1 
and that 600,000 Arabs live there, who before the sense of justice of 
the world have exactly the same right to their homes in Palestine as 
we have to our National Home. As long as this thought has not pene- 
trated into our flesh and blood, you will always have to look for 
artificial narcotics, but you will see the future in a false perspective.' 

lf The allusion to Rhodesia may appear curious to many readers in 1962, 
but forty years ago Rhodesia with her vast under-populated reserves of land 
was considered an empty country that only awaited colonization by immi- 
grants from outside who would invest money and develop it according to 
plan, as Cecil Rhodes himself had envisaged at the beginning of the century. 



THE FABIAN DECADE igg 

It was a fateful constellation but perhaps not entirely accidental 
that the realization of Zionism coincided with the emergence of 
Arab nationalism in a much more dynamic form than it had had 
before. True, there existed an Arab national movement almost ever 
since nationalism had undergone its spectacular nineteenth-century 
growth in the Balkans and in Central Europe among peoples under 
foreign rule. It got a special impetus after the 1908 revolution of the 
Young Turks. But it was not until the first World War that it evolved 
into a semi-popular movement in which Moslems and Christians took 
part, to the extent that the formerly hostile (and certainly not fully 
reconciled) two religious groups joined hands in demanding political 
independence. It is unnecessary to repeat the familiar story of the 
British connexion with the Sherifian family of the Hashemites in 
Mecca and the stirring up of nationalist hopes, and of the impact of 
the Russian Revolution and President Wilson's doctrine of self- 
determination. There is no doubt that this whole ideological up- 
heaval, which gave an unprecedented and unexpected push to Jewish 
nationalism, for the first time penetrated, together with other modern 
European concepts, into colonial regions as well. Having grown up 
in Europe in close touch with European freedom movements, relying 
on a large literature and on the ferment of the age-old religious long- 
ing for Zion, Jewish nationalism was naturally far more advanced 
than Oriental and especially Arab nationalism. But the fact remains 
that in the decisive hour of Zionism it was confronted by an Arab 
nationalism that though immature in many respects already con- 
tained the essential ingredients of a struggle for political self-rule. 
Certainly it distrusted the influx of foreign elements that aspired to 
become masters of the country. 

Zionists were not prepared for this encounter. Taking their meta- 
physical right to the possession of Palestine for granted they regarded 
with moral misgivings any forces contesting this thesis. Thus the 
Arabs who did not consent to hand their country over to the Zionists 
appeared not only as political adversaries but as criminals, later to be 
called * gangsters and murderers' when they opposed the Jews 
actively. The existence of the Arabs had never played a role in 
Zionist consciousness, and to many Zionists it appeared that some 
sinister force, possibly anti-Semitic, had invented the Arabs in 
order to make difficulties for the Jews. The British themselves were 
especially suspect: they used the Arabs as an excuse to check or 
prevent the implementation of Jewish rights. A clash of interests had 
to manifest itself, and when it came the Zionist world at every junc- 
ture accused the Mandatory Power of treachery. More often than 
not it included its pwri leader in the condemnation, 



200 

During the whole decade Weizmann had to cope with this absurd 
attitude that made him the scapegoat for an objective historical 
situation. He had steadily to conduct negotiations with the Man- 
datory Power and to invoke the pledges given to him during the war 
and incorporated in the basic Constitution of the country, namely 
the Mandate. But he could not shut his eyes to the fact that Palestine, 
apart from being the land of the Balfour Declaration and of Jewish 
colonization, was also a country with an existing population that the 
administering Government had to serve. This population enjoyed a 
kind of preference simply through being on the spot, with all its 
immediate needs. For Britain there existed from the very beginning 
a duality of tasks, and it was almost certain, according to all human 
logic, that in the case of open conflict between the two objects it was 
the actual population and not the expected and at that time 
dubious would-be newcomers who would 'win'. We have only to 
consider that in terms of 1960 and of the present doctrines of the 
United Nations in Africa in order to understand the delicate situation 
in which Zionism found itself as soon as the first World War was over 
and the world settled down to stability. 

It was Weizmann's greatest achievement that he mastered this 
situation during this decade by his prudent and cautious under- 
standing. 

At the Congress of 1925 Weizmann had the satisfaction of being 
able to point out that Palestine was at that time the quietest part of 
the Middle East. This was a vindication of his own moderate and 
cautious approach and also of the wise and far-sighted policy of Sir 
Herbert Samuel, who had also been violently attacked by the Con- 
gress although on the termination of his office many were equally 
indignant that the British Government did not renew his appoint- 
ment. In 1925, the Arabs and Druses of Syria staged a revolt against 
French rule, which led to the deplorable bombardment of Damascus 
by the French Army. In the Arab Peninsula Ibn Saud had just ex- 
pelled King Hussein from the Hedjaz and occupied Mecca and 
Medina. In Iraq there had been violent demonstrations. And there 
was no Zionism in all these countries. In Palestine, there seemed to 
be hope of peaceful development, especially as Lord Plumer, the new 
High Commissioner, made it clear that he would not tolerate 
violence. Zionism seemed to have a chance to come to some arrange- 
ment with the Arabs although the Arab nationalists had not given up 
their opposition. Weizmann told the Zionist Congress that two things 
would have to be done: 'First of all, the Arabs would have to be 
convinced that we are serious in our will to build up the National 
Home, and second that the spirit in which we carry out this building 



THE FABIAN DECADE 2OI 

up is a spirit of freedom, tolerance and brotherliness for all* 
the implication being that the masses of the Zionists were deficient 
in both accounts: they neither cared enough to let Zionism appear as 
a serious enterprise, by immigration, investment, the purchase and 
improvement of land, the building of villages and towns, nor did 
they show, in their practical behaviour and in the language they used 
in speeches and propaganda, the spirit Weizmann had spoken of. 
Shortly before, the Mandate Commission of the League of Nations 
in Geneva had for the first time paid more attention to what their 
lawyers and experts called 'the dualism of the Mandate'. The re- 
tiring High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, had had to face a 
barrage of heart-searching questions before the Geneva Commission. 
One of the principal speakers at that Congress, Dr Chaim Arlosoroff, 
rightly pointed out that Sir Herbert had discharged his task with 
great dignity and countered the attacks on the National Home with 
firm conviction. In any case, the proceedings in Geneva were a cold 
shower to the vociferous politicians who had demanded that the 
Zionist Executive should accuse the Mandatory Power before the 
forum of the League of Nations. That was another illusion Weiz- 
mann told the Congress that his critics would have to abandon. But 
what about those matters that are in the power of the Jewish people 
itself? One of the most important warrants the Zionist Organization 
had obtained from the Government, the Rutenberg concession, had 
been left unexploited because for four years the money was not forth- 
coming. This vast enterprise would have opened great opportunities; 
electrification would have meant power for industry, irrigation, 
facilities for new settlements and absorption of immigrants, trans- 
formation and modernization of the country. Weizmann felt he was 
powerless also vis-a-vis the Government if the Jewish people refused 
to provide the money and the brains for this kind of work. 

It was easy for delegates at congresses to revolt against Weizmann 
and to adopt radical resolutions. It was much more difficult to con- 
vey these resolutions to a British Government that seemed to be 
growing weary of the Zionist enterprise. Weizmann challenged the 
British with great tactical skill. But sometimes his reluctance to 
oppose every British suggestion was dictated not only by tactical con- 
siderations, but by political and moral judgment. In connexion with 
General Arthur Wauchope's plan of a Legislative Council for Pales- 
tine a plan that Weizmann felt democratically minded Jews could 
not reject a limine he says in his Autobiography: 'I was called not 
merely an appeaser, but a British agent and this accusation was 
periodically revived whenever I clashed with the extremists of the 
movement. It is no doubt still current.' But such an accusation 



202 

was 'current* also before that time, from the very beginning of 
Weizmann's leadership. Weizmann says he had c to preach the hard 
doctrine that the Balfour Declaration was no more than a framework, 
which had to be filled in by our own efforts*. He knows that 'the 
arguments which I conceived to be so reasonable must have sounded 
like bitter mockery of their cherished hopes'. 

The 'dualism' of the Mandate ultimately led to the finding by the 
Peel Commission that the Mandate was unworkable and that parti- 
tion was the only solution conceivable. But up to 1937 the Zionist 
Organization had to do everything in order to prevent the conclusion 
that the Mandate was unworkable, for without the Mandate the 
whole Zionist enterprise was in jeopardy. It was, therefore, very- 
unwise, from the Zionist point of view, to exert any pressure that 
would have had this undesirable result. Political slogans that seemed 
to imply Zionist domination and disregard of Arab rights had, there- 
fore, to be dismissed as the verbal excesses of 'extremists' that were 
not endorsed by official Zionism. That task of shielding Zionism by 
political moderation had to be performed by Weizmann. Steering the 
Zionist ship through this rough sea was Weizmann's great achieve- 
ment, and it was for this that he had to pay the penalty of being 
besmirched as a c British agent*. 

More restrained opponents, who did not doubt his honesty, accused 
him of 'minimalism* or defeatism. Once a speaker at a Congress 
derisively called him a 'cunctator*. Indeed, he could be compared to 
Fabius Cunctator, of whom the Roman poet said : 

Unus homo nobis cunctando restltuit rem. 

He knew precisely what was essential and what was not, and he 
successfully applied his 'Fabian' tactics to avoid hopeless battles with 
forces superior to his own. Under the prevailing circumstances and 
in the political climate of the 'twenties, the maximum to be hoped 
for was freedom of practical work, as far as the Jews were ready and 
able to perform it. But in order to pursue this policy, Weizmann had 
to bare his own chest to the arrows of Zionist criticism, while at the 
same time he was an untiring and most effective advocate of Jewish 
demands in the British chancelleries and elsewhere. 

As a matter of fact, his accusations of the British Government were 
most emphatic; there were few, if any, Zionists who could have 
dared to use similar language. He was not subservient. Sometimes, 
his unrelenting argument seems imbued with grief and indignation at 
what he regarded as a personal betrayal. Branding Weizmann as a 
defeatist or minimalist was a distortion. He knew exactly how far 
he could go without bringing the relationship with Britain to the 
breaking-point. He did not condone the obstacles placed in the way 



THE FABIAN DECADE 203 

of Zionism by the Administration, but in order to argue he had to 
grasp their point of view. The opposition of the British Occupation 
Army and later of Colonial administrators to introducing such an 
explosive element into a country whose order they were responsible 
for was not wholly mischievous, as Zionist complaints often sug- 
gested. There were also many benevolent people among them who 
were, however, startled by the boldness of the Zionist idea and 
shocked by the ignorance of local conditions often exhibited by the 
Zionists. In 1918, when the Zionist Commission under Weizmann' s 
leadership arrived in Cairo on their way to Palestine, Sir Reginald 
Wingate, British High Commissioner in Egypt, wrote to Lord 
Hardinge that he found them 'reasonable but woefully uninformed 
as to conditions in Arab countries'. He therefore 'recommended 
them to feel their way carefully and do all in their power to show 
sympathy and goodwill to the Arab and Moslem peoples with whom 

their future must lie 1 also warned them to be very careful in 

regard to their discussions on the acquisition of land. . . 91 It was per- 
haps a tragedy that the Zionists, preoccupied not only with plans for 
the future (which always had been made without any thought for 
the Arabs), but also with internal quarrels, failed to heed this warn- 
ing. Most of them regarded it as a disguised attempt at curbing 
Zionist activity and thereby condemning it to failure from the very 
beginning. 

One of the psychological facts with which Weizmann had to 
contend in his relations with the Zionist public was the Jewish 
inclination to regard all history and all world events as though some 
conspiracy against the Jews were involved. Pre-Zionist Jewish his- 
toriography was mainly laments over persecution and suffered in- 
justice. This was, of course, justified to a certain extent, but other 
factors and motives had to be appreciated as well. The age-old 
distrust against the goy, the inheritance of generations of oppressed 
Ghetto Jews, and the experience of Russian Jews since 1882, was not 
absent in Weizmann himself; but in his close contact with the liberal 
Western world he had learned to look at things more objectively. As 
political leader he could not share the popular prejudice that the 
Jew must always be right and the goy always wicked. On the other 
hand, he knew his Russian Jews very well, he was one of them after 
all, and he was aware of the difficulties that would inevitably arise 
from the impossibility of finding a common language between this 
type of Jew and the British administrators. This anxiety was the 
source of Weizmann's conflict with Menahem Ussishkin, the declared 

1 Sir Ronald Wingate. Wingate of the Sudan (London, Murray, 1955, 
p. 225. New York, Transatlantic, 1957)- 



i gig- 1 9*9 

leader of Russian Zionists and President of the 'Odessa Committee', 
who, after his emergence from Bolshevik Russia, assumed as a matter 
of course that he would be the only one eligible to stand at the helm 
of the building up of the National Home. Ussishkin was regarded as 
the very incarnation of uncompromising nationalism and Zionist 
will-power. Did he not represent the veterans who had, under most 
difficult circumstances, built Jewish colonies and acquired land in 
Palestine in the face of an unfavourable Turkish administration? 
Without the colonies, whose existence was due not to the official 
Zionist Organization but to the Odessa Committee and Baron 
Edmond Rothschild, any Zionist demands during the first World 
War would have had no basis. Ussishkin was considered the 'man of 
iron* of Zionism; his slogan was 'nothing can withstand will'. Un- 
concerned with objective facts, ignorant of the Western world and 
distrustful of its methods, he came to London in 1920 with a 
maximalist programme, which seemed to be fantasy to the men of 
realist outlook merely from a financial point of view, let alone 
politically. Ussishkin compelled the 1920 Conference to agree to a 
Colonization budget of four million pounds, and he had little under- 
standing of political complications. After a short time, it became 
evident that the budget had to be ignominiously cut, not to a half or 
so, but to ten per cent, and even this money was not available. The 
years after the Annual Conference of 1920 were marred for Weiz- 
mann not only by the unfortunate struggle against Brandeis, but also 
by the fight against Ussishkin, which in some respects was more 
difficult because Ussishkin enjoyed a mystical reputation as a stub- 
born nationalist and a man of the people. Weizmann had to conduct 
a war on two fronts within the Organization. When at the Confer- 
ence Brandeis wanted to oust Ussishkin, it proved impossible and 
Weizmann had to agree to Ussishkin's appointment. Actually, it was 
clear to Weizmann that Ussishkin was not the man for the job. In 
1923, he had to be removed from the chairmanship of the Palestine 
Executive to the presidency of the Keren Kayemeth land-buying 
agency. As political representative Weizmann replaced him by 
Colonel Frederick Kisch, an experienced British soldier and diplomat 
who had served in India. A man hitherto completely unknown to the 
Zionist ranks elected to the most delicate office of the movement! It 
was a bitter pill for the Zionist public to swallow, but ultimately they 
yielded to Weizmann's pressure as they had to do in other matters, 
too. Kisch proved to be a good choice and became an ardent Zionist. 

The great D-Day of the Jewish Agency came in August 1929. It was 
the triumph of Chaim Weizmann, 'Seven years of my life or more 



THE FABIAN DECADE 205 

were consumed by it/ he said. The Great Assembly did not fail to 
stir the imagination even of the sceptics, a whole galaxy of non- 
Zionist Jews famous in the world at large, all identifying themselves 
with what was actually the purpose of Zionism, and expressing 
solidarity with the Jewish people, was without precedent or parallel, 
surpassing even the first Zionist Congresses, which had been boy- 
cotted by the Jewish 'Establishment 5 of Western Europe and the 
United States. Menahem Ussishkin had the greatness to ' acknowledge 
defeat' : he extolled Weizmann as the creator of a new and glorious 
epoch in Jewish life. 

The climax was reached at the Constituent Assembly after the 
Fifteenth Zionist Congress in Zurich to be followed, alas, imme- 
diately by an anticlimax when on 23 August the riots broke out in 
Palestine that changed the whole scene fundamentally. A still heavier 
blow was in the offing. The Black Thursday (24 October 1929) at the 
New York Stock Exchange started an economic catastrophe in 
America and the world and ruined the hopes of raising more funds 
for Palestine in the United States. It made the whole edifice collapse 
like a house of cards and ended in bitter disappointment. A new turn 
in Zionist history came about only in 1933, when after the advent of 
Hitler thousands of German Jews fled to Palestine, bringing with 
them vast capital and enthusiastic though often ill-conceived and 
illusionary initiative to a country on the verge of bankruptcy. 

The Jewish Agency was born under an inauspicious star. Shortly 
after the Zurich Congress it suffered an irreparable blow when the 
man who was intended to be one of its pillars and its protagonist on 
the most exposed and important front, Louis Marshall, died on 1 1 
September. He was soon to be followed by another of the key Ameri- 
cans, Lee Frankel. Moreover, the Palestine disturbances and the 
worldwide economic crash hamstrung the Agency almost from its 
inception. 

It has sometimes been suggested that there was a causal connexion 
between the setting up of the Agency and the Arab revolt. The con- 
vocation of so impressive and potent public figures appeared to the 
Arabs as a definite threat. They feared that the Zionists, strengthened 
morally and materially, would step up their offensive for the conquest 
of Palestine, and they wanted to prejudge such a development by swift 
action. They were to show the British Mandatory power as well as 
the Jewish world that the Arabs would not sit idle while their country 
was being swamped. 

It is just possible that such thoughts occurred to the shrewder and 
more advanced Arab leaders like the Mufti, Hajj Amin el-Husseini 
and his lieutenants. But the precipitation of the outbreak was perhaps 



2o6 1919-1929 

not as premeditated as it seemed. The immediate cause was a Jewish 
(Revisionist) demonstration at the Wailing Wall, which was con- 
strued by the Arabs as an attempt to storm the Aqsa Mosque. It 
was unwise to follow the Mufti into the trap of religious controversy. 
This Weizmann had always tried to avoid but he had lost control 
over events in Palestine. (Unfortunately, Lord Plumer had resigned 
the High Commissionership in 1928 owing to ill-health.) 

The question whether the outbreak of 1929, which at first took the 
form of ugly murder and indiscriminate cruel bloodshed against 
the most peaceful and helpless section of the Jewish community, was 
the beginning of an Arab 'revolt' or whether it was only as most 
of the official Zionist commentators and Palestinian pressmen con- 
tended, the work of 'robbers and murderers' incited by criminal 
conspirators, is now of minor historical interest. It may be said that 
at that time Arab nationalism was not yet fully developed in the 
European sense, and the collective xenophobia still had a pre- 
dominantly religious character. Religious and nationalist issues were 
always confounded in the East. Looking back in 1962, after all we 
have witnessed in the formerly colonial world, we can hardly doubt 
that such outbreaks as the 1 929 Arab atrocities had a definite politi- 
cal aspect. Indeed, it may be said that relations with the Arabs were 
now to become the over-riding problem of the Zionist movement. 
Before the State of Israel was established the Arab problem was also 
the chief source of paralysis in British Government policy, and today, 
with the State of Israel surrounded by Arab states, the outlook 
remains enigmatic. 

Nevertheless, seen in historical perspective, Zurich was the crown- 
ing of Weizmann's endeavour. It was the last international Jewish 
gathering of undisturbed splendour and grandeur. It was the work of 
one man, Chaim Weizmann. He had fought against terrible odds 
and maintained his faith in spite of furious and obstinate opposition 
within his own camp. Now he had been blessed in staging an event 
unique in modern Jewish history, which left its mark on the con- 
sciousness of the generation. 

Mr Robert Weltsch, journalist and political writer, who now lives 
in London, was a leader of the German Zionist movement and 
edited its principal organ. He has written extensively on Israel 
and on Zionist issues. 



CHAPTER NINE 



A PORTRAIT IN ACTION 



LOUIS LIPSKY 



IT is curious to recall that when Weizmann first appeared on the 
American scene in 1921 he was preceded by his reputation as a 
purely cultural, non-political Zionist an 'Ahad Ha'amist'. He was 
known as a young man who had contradicted Herzl and had, indeed, 
crossed swords with him dramatically. His characteristic contribution 
to Zionism, the development of synthetic * organic' Zionism, real- 
istically involved in living processes and hence superior to the 
abstractions that debilitated so much of Zionist oratory, was not as 
yet well known in the United States. 

Weizmann had, to be sure, long since acquired international 
stature. He had become a distinguished chemist, well known in 
Great Britain and France, whose work had made an important con- 
tribution to the Allied victory in the first World War. A by-product, 
and a vital by-product, of his scientific work had been financial, 
and hence to a large extent political independence. The Weiz- 
manns could maintain a luxurious home in London and extend 
hospitality to many celebrated personalities in the world of politics 
and science. 

Because of his success in scientific and technological work he could 
once more immerse himself completely in Zionist affairs, in which I 
had first seen him functioning in 1913, at the Vienna Congress. At 
that time he had given an impression of studied indifference to what 
was going on around him. He looked easily bored. In 1913 he was 
still the promising young man who had debated with Theodor Herzl 
and the followers of David Wolffsohn at the first Congresses. 

At the Vienna Congress he was the chairman of a Congress sub- 
committee and was called upon to settle internal disputes and to 
bring in a list of various nominations. As a member of that committee 
I saw him operating close up. Weizmann's rulings were a study in 
temperament. He was impatient with pilpul and sharp in procedure; 
he had a mordant sense of humour. He was scheduled to address the 

207 



2o8 1919-1929 

Congress on the Hebrew University, but the imperious Ussishkin 
took the initiative away from him and announced the beginnings of a 
fund. Weizmann's referat became a matter of no more than academic 
interest. The older men dominated the caucuses, and Weizmann 
stood in the rear of the hall, his eyes half closed, listless. He was a 
ready debater and liked to speak; but in Vienna he lacked drive. He 
seemed to be listening and waiting. There were few intimations of 
the coming war. The burden of all speeches was: Get along with the 
work in Palestine as best you can. The last I remember of the Vienna 
Congress was Weizmann's look of fatigue as he reported the nomina- 
tions at the end of the Congress. 

By 1921 all that had changed. Weizmann was no longer the 
apparently listless young man I remembered from the Congress in 
1913. He was conscious of standing on a high platform; he had 
banished the trivial, and spoke as though he were being used by the 
Jewish cause as its medium. 

His leadership had been confirmed at an international conference 
held in London in 1920. This conference had not only revived the 
democratic structure of the organization, but thoroughly revised it. 
This had been of crucial significance. Not only were the main sur- 
vivors of the war in attendance, including many disoriented Russian 
Zionists, but a delegation of some forty Americans, led by Louis D. 
Brandeis, had made its appearance. It was the most substantial 
American group that had appeared in the international Zionist 
movement. 

England had shown her willingness to accept the Mandate over 
Palestine, but the actual building of the Jewish National Home was 
to be the responsibility of the Movement. The miracle of propaganda 
was to be followed by the even greater miracle of securing the man- 
power and gathering the material resources for the task of creating 
the National Home. The funds of the Jewish Colonial Trust could not 
be used for hazardous enterprises. The meagre resources of the Jewish 
National Fund were limited to the redemption of the land. There 
were no reserves. 

It was in London that the Keren Hayesod was founded and an 
appeal issued to world Jewry. The level of giving was raised and an 
era of large-scale fund-raising set in. A tremendous wave of popular 
excitement passed over all Jewish communities. The funds raised, 
however, were always inadequate. There were chronic deficits and 
strange book-keeping procedures. Weizmann had to devote himself 
to the continuous grind of collecting funds in every part of the world. 
He became the most effective of all Zionist propagandists. 

The London Conference of 1920, the first conference where a 



A -rOKlKAiT 1JN AUTION 



really massive American delegation played any role, revealed a basic 
divergence of view that had long been ripening beneath the surface 
of Zionist life in America, There was a dispute at the Conference 
between European and American Jews, which concentrated on the 
programme of colonization and how the budget was to be financed. 
Involved, also, was the question of leadership. The Europeans in- 
sisted on the Americans' sharing in the leadership, provided, however, 
that Brandeis would participate personally in the activities of the 
administration. 

In essence this dispute involved the profoundest issue in the 
Zionist movement and possibly in Jewish life as a whole. Put most 
broadly, it involved the question of allegiance and responsibility. 

The American movement was at this time under Brandeis's almost 
unquestioned leadership, and Brandeis, for all his devotion to the 
Zionist cause, refused to serve it by doing anything that might lay 
him open to a charge of disloyalty vis-a-vis the United States. He felt 
it impossible for himself to undertake any obligation whatever to 
Zionism as a world movement that might in any way infringe on his 
prior loyalty to the United States. His attitude was, in fact, an early 
forerunner of a point of view that has beset the Zionist movement 
since its inception concern with the question of so-called 'dual 
loyalty'. 

Brandeis's unbending determination not to involve himself in any 
international enterprise was duplicated on the domestic scene by his 
distaste for the work of persuasion, harangue and propaganda in- 
herent in any democratic movement. He did not wish to be confined 
in his behaviour by the necessity of manipulating his own followers 
in democratic combat, still less of submitting to the influence and 
control of Jewish representatives outside the United States. 

Thus, at the London Conference that proclaimed the Keren 
Hayesod, when Brandeis categorically refused to accept a responsible 
position in the joint Zionist campaign aimed at the implementation 
of the new programme, a breach with the world Zionist movement 
seemed inevitable. 

The issue was joined when Shmarya Levin decided to launch a 
campaign on behalf of the Keren Hayesod without the approval of 
the American leadership under Brandeis, who believed that by hold- 
ing the purse-strings of the largest Jewish community in the world 
which he thought he could control his views should be taken into 
account regardless of votes at congresses or conferences. 

But the masses of American Jews were not controlled by such 
views. In fact, they were prepared to meet Dr Weizmann as the 
victor in a movement that had brought recognition of the age-long 



Jewish hope. He had helped to make the dream of Herzl a political 
reality. They gathered at the Battery and awaited the moment when 
he touched American soil. They cheered him on his way to his hotel, 
lingering in the lobby for hours for him to appear. The largest mass 
demonstration ever held in New York greeted him when he was 
given a public reception by a national committee. These audiences 
were not impressed by the debate. They were impressed by the 
historic facts Dr Weizmann symbolized; to them he was the image 
of the national Jewish hope. 

The Cleveland Convention of 1921 wrested from Brandeis and his 
followers the leadership they had held for seven years. It was de- 
veloped entirely by the forces of American Zionism; there was no 
carpet-bagging influence. Its leadership was American, the methods 
adopted were those of American democracy, its publications and 
parliamentary tactics had an American authorship. Weizmann would 
have preferred to have Brandeis in London, but not Brandeis giving 
orders to people in London while he stayed on in the United States. 

When Weizmann entered New York Bay in the spring of 1921 to 
launch the Keren Hayesod, by an intensification of the campaign 
already begun by Shmarya Levin, he found the controversy within 
the ranks of American Zionism fully ablaze. 

Zionist opinion in the United States was divided in its support of 
the Keren Hayesod, which the Jewish Agency depended on for the 
initiation of the new tasks imposed on the Zionist movement by the 
Mandate. 

It was of course impossible for any Zionist agency to operate 
without funds, and Weizmann had no reserves. Hence the American 
conflict blocked the entire future of the movement. Weizmann, called 
upon to carry this whole issue to the Jews of the United States for 
settlement in public discussion, assumed a gargantuan task, whose 
performance may legitimately be considered a sine qua non of the 
whole subsequent development of Palestine. 

Essentially a man of peace, Weizmann would surely have found it 
most compatible with his temperament to accept compromise and let 
time settle the issues. But Palestine could not wait. The Americans 
wanted to negotiate and Weizmann felt he had no authority to 
negotiate. He was dealing with a challenge to the organization main- 
tained intact from Herd's day as the corporate responsibility of the 
Zionist movement. To have departed from that line would have 
created two Zionist centres, two Zionist authorities, two Zionist funds 
(or more). It would have made the task of the Jewish Agency 
impossible. 

There were peacemakers who sought to adjust differences. There 



A PORTRAIT IN ACTION 211 

were turbulent conferences. At times it looked as if Dr Weizmann 
was about to yield, but his resistance was stiffened by pressures from 
London and Jerusalem and by his colleagues in New York. His 
adversary, Brandeis, was a man who had great qualities of endur- 
ance, who had fought a powerful railroad group with amazing 
tenacity, who had evolved his own idea of how Palestine should be 
rebuilt, and who would not easily be deflected from his course. 
Brandeis seemed unable to appreciate what the democracy of the 
Zionist movement meant in terms of economic resources. He seemed 
to have in mind a planned economy for a people not yet organized, 
for whom a land had to be prepared, who did not have to be con- 
sulted as to what kind of a home should be built for them. His hand 
was not being forced by time and need. 

In the last analysis, American Zionists abandoned Brandeis, or 
rather, he in effect abandoned American Zionism. By an over- 
whelming majority American Zionists repudiated the position taken 
by Brandeis and his friends; they elected a new leadership. Following 
an un-American tradition, the defeated party retired from the 
organization, abandoned the struggle and awaited the time when 
their cause would be vindicated. It never was. 

Weizmann gradually won over the Jews of America. He cut deep 
into the minds of those who had come to the United States from 
foreign lands, and restored them to the Jewish traditions that Ameri- 
can life had been shaking them loose from. More and more they were 
influenced by ideals that were born in far-off places. 

By the time the enlarged Jewish Agency was agreed to in Zurich 
in 1929, Weizmann had succeeded in bringing together all elements 
of Jewry neutrals, sympathizers, and partisans. It may be said that 
when the extended Jewish Agency was established, with the co- 
operation of Louis Marshall, Warburg, Leon Blum, Herbert Samuel, 
Oscar Wasserman and others, Weizmann was at the height of his 
service to the Zionist movement. 

From the very beginning the technique of fund-raising in America 
that Weizmann adopted was to exalt the vision of Jews to high 
achievement in all directions. Generally speaking, he depended on 
individual initiative and on nurturing confidence in the future; he 
believed in tackling objectives with faith in the sacrifices that Jews 
were prepared to make, and in raising their hopes for the conquest 
of the land. He had faith in the dedication and the endurance of 
Jews during periods of financial difficulty; deficits were to be over- 
come by the organization of the people. 
American oratory has its own standards, which foreigners seldom 



212 I9I9-I929 

appreciate. It stems from the rough and ready West. Its dependence 
upon sound suggests the open spaces. Weizmann did not qualify as 
an American orator. His voice was not resonant. He had few gestures. 
He used no grouping introductions or exalted perorations. He hated 
the impersonation of emotion. He had no ear for the rhythmic 
phrase. He had acquired the English gift for understatement. He did 
not propagandize himself as a person. He was not made for stage 
effects. 

In spite of these limitations, no Jewish speaker ever made the same 
deep and lasting impression even in the United States. Dr Weiz- 
mann spoke as if his words were the issue of suffering. He made the 
impression of a murky flame that had to be fanned to give heat. 
Shmarya Levin had burning passion; Sokolow was a master of bril- 
liant narrative and analysis and of sly humour; Ussishkin took his 
audience by storm with sledge-hammer blows; Bialik spun exciting 
ideas and fascinated his listeners with figures of speech that did not 
require form to make them live. Weizmann had none of these quali- 
ties. He established an identification of himself with what his words 
were trying to convey. He seemed to be able to capture the wisdom 
of Jewish life. He drew his thoughts out of an invisible responsibility. 
There was prophetic significance in his phrases a mystery striving 
to explain itself. There was a stateliness in his speech that was 
unique. He seemed to speak ex-cathedra for the silent Jewish people. 
He was their interpreter and advocate. A cause had found a voice for 
a people emerging from the clouded past and demanding justice 
from the modem world. 

Weizmann had the extraordinary ability to speak to Jews in terms 
of their ancient heritage, and to summon them to the realization of 
their immense latent powers. He had the greatest pride in the Jewish 
heritage, and immense confidence in the positive qualities of the 
Jews, though he was sometimes agonizingly aware of the many 
Jewish shortcomings he regarded it as the business of Zionism to 
eliminate. Though he used curiously few Yiddish expressions when 
he spoke in public, he seemed somehow to derive his strength from a 
vast reservoir of Yiddish. He made the impression on his Jewish 
audiences of a seer, telling them what they could and must do in 
order to realize their innate powers. 

He grew with his responsibilities. His personality acquired stature. 
It was formed by his intimacy with Jews the world over, as well as 
by his adjustments to the non- Jewish world. He sensed difficulties 
before they appeared. He was over-cautious. He never took refuge 
in formulas or programmes. He coined many formulas but threw 
them away with great unconcern. 



A PORTRAIT IN ACTION 213 

When he spoke to American Jews he saw before him not a frac- 
tional part of Jewish life but a microcosm of all Jewries. He saw more 
Jews from his home town than he had ever seen in Motol or Pinsk. 
These were the relatives of the Jews of Vilna, of Warsaw, of Bucha- 
rest, of Krakow and of Vienna. They were waiting for him to speak 
and they would rise and greet the historic opportunity he would 
describe. They were thirsting for his words. A leadership that could 
not speak to them in the language they understood, that persisted in 
going its own way without considering their feelings, prejudices and 
ideals, would not be able to lead them in the great period of building. 
These Jews declined to raise any barriers between Zionists in America 
and Zionists in Europe. They were not aware of any double loyalties. 
They had become Zionists through the passion of their leaders in 
Russia, in Poland and in Rumania. They had not been separated 
from other Jews by time and distance. They were not the lost tribes of 
Israel. They were kinsmen who had wandered from home and who 
had found freedom in a new land, but they remembered their origins. 

In the course of years, with great patience and skill, Weizmann led 
some of the dissidents of 1921 back to active Zionist service. But his 
aim was the winning of the philanthropists and assimilationists. 
Brandeis had won a number of such converts, but they were not in 
the leadership of Jewish communal life. The American Jews could be 
reached only through their responsible organizations, which were 
growing in influence and resources. Their leaders, however, main- 
tained the traditional opposition of the Reform movement. The impli- 
cations of Zionist ideology alarmed them. However, when President 
Wilson gave his approval of the Balfour Declaration and a joint 
resolution of the American Congress accepted it, the same desire to be 
loyal to the United States led them to greet the Declaration and to ap- 
prove of Palestine as the Jewish National Home. Tremendous popular 
excitement prevailed. There were parades and mass meetings. The 
Balfour Declaration was regarded as a great historical event. The 
prejudices of the past especially against Zionism were softened, but 
the Zionists were by-passed. The ideal was ignored but the fact was 
accepted. The armour of the many non-Zionist reform rabbis was 
pierced and their hearts were touched. They now became friends of 
the Land. The philanthropist, Nathan Straus, was interested in several 
Palestine projects. Samuel Untermeyer, the corporation lawyer, 
became the head of the American Keren Hayesod. The ageing Jacob 
H. SchifT, the militant, outspoken opponent of Zionism, publicly 
reversed himself and expressed his faith in Palestine as a Holy Land, 
the centre of the Jewish religion. 



214 1919-1929 

The new trend toward Palestine gave Weizmann the opportunity 
to push forward his proposal for an enlarged Jewish Agency. He 
found a powerful friend in a man of strong convictions who was 
regarded as the leader of the non-Zionist group. Louis Marshall was 
a distinguished American but unlike Brandeis, was deeply involved 
in Jewish communal affairs. He was the chairman of the American 
Jewish Committee and an officer of the Jewish Theological Seminary. 
He was stubborn and had strong prejudices; but he could be per- 
suaded by reason. He was greatly influenced by his contact with 
Jewish leaders when he went to Paris as a member of the American 
delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference. 

Weizmann found in him a loyal friend and stubborn supporter, 
without whose influence and aid he could not have succeeded in 
winning non-Zionist co-operation for the Jewish Agency. 

Weizmann brought the non-Zionist delegates to Zurich in 1929, 
when the extended Jewish Agency was formally established. That 
was a scene without parallel in Jewish history. The leaders of the 
Jewries of the world were present on its platform. It aroused intense 
interest throughout the world. With difficulty, the Zionist Congress 
ratified the constitution of the Agency. Then the non-Zionists fol- 
lowed suit; the American non-Zionists uniting with non-Zionist 
groups from all parts of the world. Finally, both sections met, and 
with impressive ceremonies all agreements were sealed. 

Thus the Jewish Agency contained two new types of Zionists 
whole-hearted Zionists, and practical Zionists who were theoretically 
non- or even anti-Zionists. In a way it was really a forerunner of the 
present situation within world Jewry since the triumphant emergence 
of the State of Israel; world Jewry is almost unanimously pro-Israel 
without having become Zionist. The edifice of the enlarged Jewish 
Agency was sturdy enough to withstand the redoubtable shocks that 
rained down on it from almost the moment it was formed the death 
of Louis Marshall, the Passfield-MacDonald White Paper, the Arab 
riots and the general political attack on the Zionist movement that 
ensued. The dense interaction between the Jewish Agency and the 
World Zionist Organization created the mould that eventually gave 
shape to the eruption of the Jewish State in 1948. 

Thus, with the vital and indeed indispensable support of American 
Jewry, in the form that was assured by the Cleveland Convention of 
1921, Weizmann set his stamp on the World Zionist movement and 
on the state that emerged from it. Despite all Weizmann's political 
setbacks later on, the institutions of modern Israel are unthinkable 
without that stamp. 



A PORTRAIT IN ACTION 215 

Mr Louis Lipsky of New York City, man of letters, organizer and 
orator, has been prominent in world Zionism since before the turn 
of the century. He has served as President of the Zionist Organiza- 
tion of America and member of the World ^ionist Executive 
among other high offices. 



1929-1939 



CHAPTER TEN 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 

JULIAN LOUIS HELPER 



THE FOUNDING of the Jewish Agency in August 1929 was certainly 
the major achievement of Weizmann's middle career. It was a great 
peak, toward which Weizmann had been striving ever since the Bal- 
four Declaration, and which, with all its shortcomings, dominated 
the Jewish scene throughout the following decade. 

While it is true that its invigorating effect was to be somewhat 
neutralized by the Arab riots of 1929 and by the worldwide financial 
crisis caused by the American stock market crash in October that 
year, nevertheless the establishment of the Agency was one of the 
major political acts of Weizmann's life. 

Many varied and disparate elements of Jewry had been brought 
together, for the first time in a millennial history, inspired by the 
single objective of furthering the building up of the National Home. 
Of the great and famous in Zionism and among the Jewish people, 
who was not there? Each of the five daily sessions, which lasted until 
14 August, had its star orators. Louis Marshall, who, with Weiz- 
mann, was one of the chief architects of the extended Agency, and 
Leon Blum, French Socialist leader; O. E. D'Avigdor Goldsmid, 
prominent among the Anglo- Jewish 'Brahmins', and Sholem Asch, 
the Yiddish writer and playwright; the American leaders Louis 
Lipsky and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise; Hermann Struck, the artist; 
the venerable Rabbi Ezekiel Lipshitz, President of the Union of 
Rabbis in Poland, and Dr Lee K. Frankel, the American economist, 
handsome and silver-haired; Dr Cyrus Adler, of Philadelphia, and 
Chaim Arlosoroff, of Jerusalem; David Ben-Gurion, David Remez, 
and Menahem Ussishkin, that Gibraltar of Zionism; Nahum Gold- 
mann, and Rabbi Ben-Zion Uziel, of Tel Aviv (later to become 
Chief Rabbi of Palestine): hallowed names in Zionist and Jewish 
history. 

For Weizmann, the occasion represented the consummation of 
seven years of continuous and arduous effort, ever since the League 

219 



22O 

of Nations had in July 1922 awarded Great Britain the Mandate 
over Palestine. He ended his inaugural address on a hopeful note: 

We have established the extended Jewish Agency in the convic- 
tion that we meet as free and equal men and that our partnership 
rests on mutual respect. The question of convictions cannot be 
regulated by articles of constitution, but what we can and wish 
to regulate here is the system of practical work. 

As he concluded he was greeted with a standing ovation lasting 
several minutes. 

The scene was the main hall of the picturesque Tonhalle of Zurich ; 
the time was mid-afternoon of Sunday, u August 1929; and the 
occasion was the momentous first meeting of the council of the en- 
larged Jewish Agency. His appearance in the large chamber, accom- 
panied by Louis Marshall, Lord Melchett, Felix Warburg, Herbert 
Samuel, Albert Einstein, and the bankers Max Warburg and Oscar 
Wassermann, had evoked a stirring reception. As one newspaper 
correspondent present described it, jubilant scenes were witnessed e as 
the powerful emissaries of world Jewry appeared together on one 
platform at a gathering which was to lead to the signing of the 
historic compact between Zionists and non-Zionists, uniting the 
Jewish people'. 

Speaker after speaker, following Weizmann, dwelt on the same 
high note of hope and promise. In a cordial message read out to the 
eminent assembly Sir Eric Drummond (later the Earl of Perth), 
Secretary-General of the League of Nations, declared in part: 

The Palestine Mandate recognizes the principle of the establish- 
ment of the Jewish National Home in the country It seems 

evident that the steps now being taken to put the Agency and 
thereby the efforts to carry out the ideals of Zionism on a larger 
basis cannot but be favourable to the accomplishment of the aims 
laid down in the Mandate Today's event will always be re- 
garded as a happy one in the interests of both Palestine and the 
Jewish people in all parts of the world. 

Yet, for all the grandeur of the event and the general elation of 
mood, Weizmann was under no false illusions as to the attitude of the 
non-Zionists towards the ideological content and purport of Zionism. 
With his masterly flair for understatement, he had made this clear 
in the inaugural address. In touching upon the difficulty of regulat- 
ing convictions by statutes and official formulas, he indicated subtly 
how he felt about the chances for success during the initial phases of 
the Zionist and non-Zionist partnership. He knew full well the 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 221 

character of those convictions; over the years, his close contacts with 
the non-Zionist leaders, especially those in the United States and 
Germany, had given him an intimate insight into their thoughts and 
feelings about a Jewish state. 

But he was an optimist, too; his sanguine outlook was as evident 
as his realistic assessment of the prospects. Earlier in his opening 
address he had said, 'I earnestly trust that the labours of the Council 
will redound to the lasting advantage of the Jewish people and to 
the honour of the Jewish name.' 

Although the signing of the document that formally set up the 
Agency was a foregone conclusion, the discussion of the text, as well 
as the form and methods of operation, took up most of the five 
sessions. The final ceremony, however, made up for all the hours upon 
hours of argument and debate. Following Weizmann and Nahum 
Sokolow, who signed for the World Zionist Organization, the repre- 
sentatives of Jewish communities in twenty countries including 
Palestine appended their signatures. It read like a roll-call of celebri- 
ties. Then, according to the New Palestine (New York, 25 August 
1929) an unusual scene took place: 

After Weizmann and Marshall had signed, these two Jewish 
leaders, the first a chemist of high standing, a dignified leader of a 
great movement, and the other a distinguished constitutional 
lawyer, a man of 73 years, noted for his calm logic, threw aside all 
pretence of unemotionality and embraced and kissed each other 
with unashamed tears in their eyes. Other delegates could be seen 
doing the same. Zionists and non-Zionists indiscriminately cele- 
brated the historic occasion with a lavish display of affection. 

One of the mementos of the occasion, now among the Weizmann 
Archives at Rehovoth, is a message which Einstein scribbled to Weiz- 
mann on the spur of an obviously thrilling moment. Using the Bolder 
Hotel notepaper, Einstein wrote: 

An dies em Tage ist die Saat Herzls und Weizmanns in wunder- 
barer Weise gereift. Keiner von den Anwesenden blieb unbewegt. 

A. Einstein, n. VIII. 29. 

Weizmann's opening address at the founding conference of the 
Jewish Agency Council and his subsequent contributions to the dis- 
cussion were no mere rhetorical flourishes, but the delineation of a 
definite goal and purpose. This was evident from what had happened 
during the preceding two weeks. The Sixteenth Zionist Congress had 
opened in the Stadttheater at the Zurich lakeside on Sunday after- 
noon, 28 July, in the presence of hundreds of delegates and guests, 



222 

'with a pomp and solemnity such as no previous Congress witnessed', 
according to the New Palestine. One Hebrew writer observed at the 
time, 'A sense of destiny pervades this gathering; we are in the ante- 
chamber of history.' 

During the stormy proceedings Weizmann had fought tooth and 
nail for the adoption of the Agency constitution against opponents 
and critics who were still dubious about the proposed alliance with 
the non-Zionists. For all his disappointment and grief in later years 
at the way in which the non-Zionists manipulated their partnership 
in the Jewish Agency, he never lost faith in the original motives 
underlying its creation. He remained inflexibly dedicated to the ideal 
of Jewish unity in the building up of the National Home; and, in line 
with his credo of 'political acts backed by practical facts', his oft- 
proclaimed synthesis of Zionism, he was prepared to endure much 
that was unpalatable for the sake of fostering the material aspects of 
the undertaking. 

Weizmann's attendance at the Sixteenth Congress was his first 
appearance at an official Zionist gathering after practically six 
months in retirement due to severe illness. He had been under con- 
stant medical treatment since the end of 1928. He had then returned 
to London from the second of two onerous fund-raising tours and 
political negotiations with the non-Zionists in the United States that 
year. The cumulative toll of his activities had brought him to the 
verge of physical collapse in December, and he remained bedridden 
for many weeks. Even his hurried trip to Palestine in April 1929 had 
been undertaken against doctors' orders. He had wanted to be in the 
country at the same time as the bankers Felix Warburg and his 
brother Max, who had decided to pay a visit at Passover, so as to 
ensure that they came away with the proper impressions. He was 
apprehensive about the possibility of friction between the Yishuv 
leaders and the non-Zionist visitors. 

In the event, there was no need for him to have worried. Their 
visit produced excellent results, both for the Yishuv and themselves; 
their morale remained unimpaired; for himself, fortunately there 
were no ^untoward effects upon his health. On the contrary, he 
benefited enormously from his ten-day visit. To some, 'the air of 
Eretz Israel maketh wise', as the Jewish sages had it; to him, it was 
a case of 'the air of Eretz Israel maketh well*. 

Weizmann's greatly improved condition by the time of the Con- 
gress at the end of July was a great relief to his friends and adherents. 
The first session, at which he gave the opening address, was devoted 
to the twenty-fifth anniversary of Herat's death; he delivered a glow- 
ing tribute to his memory. He then surveyed the progress made in 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 223 

Zionist work in the previous two years s to convert the neglected soil 
into the fruitful and blossoming land which is to become the home of 
the Jewish people', and went on to speak of 'the negotiations with 
the American non-Zionists (which) have created the basis upon which 
the structure of the enlarged Jewish Agency can be erected'. 
He said: 

We Zionists were always convinced that after the attainment of 
our political goal our functions would have to be changed. The 
Jewish National Home, which already exists, is no longer merely 
a Zionist affair; it is a Jewish affair. It is a centripetal force which 
attracts Jewish energies from all parts of the world by its mere 
existence. Through the fact of its existence alone it brings about a 
union and association of Jews for the purpose of a common cause. 
It has been a source of gratification to us to be able to observe this 
wonder-working power of Palestine. 

Congress ran its customary polemical length; the usual some called 
it 'inescapably traditional 3 late-night sessions lasting into the small 
hours of the morning were part of the experience. Debater after 
debater entered the lists, among them Vladimir Jabotinsky. Weiz- 
mann intervened during the seventh session on Wednesday evening, 
31 July, and according to a contemporary report 'at its close he 
received an ovation that lasted for ten minutes'. Clause by clause, the 
draft Agency statutes were hostly contested after the discussion of 
them began on 7 August. This went on throughout the fourteenth 
session, which lasted a record fourteen hours and ended only at 
2 140 AM Friday morning, 9 August, with a vote of 230 against 30 for 
the slightly modified draft. The sixteenth and final session of Con- 
gress closed in the early hours of Sunday, and that same afternoon 
the delegates repaired to the Tonhalle for the first Agency Council 
session. 

Weizmann left Zurich with his wife for a holiday at the mountain 
resort of Wengen, in the Bernese Oberland, nine days after the Coun- 
cil meetings had ended. Weizmann was still exhilarated by a sense of 
achievement. As he described it in Trial and Error many years later: 
C I felt free from care, I anticipated confidently a future which would 
witness a great acceleration in the building up of the National Home.' 

The date of their journey to Wengen was a fateful one, 23 August 
1929, the very Friday of the Arab outbreaks in Jerusalem, from 
which the violence later spread to other parts of the country. 

With the Jewish state now a living and concrete reality, indepen- 
dently governed by its own democratic institutions and represented 



224 1929-1939 

on international councils, one cannot help being struck by the utter 
improbability of it all It seems incredible, looking over the record of 
events in the ten years after the Zurich gathering, that anything short 
of total failure could have awaited the Zionist cause, let alone the 
Yishuv's metamorphosis into sovereign nationhood. 

Certainly the Arab attacks upon the Yishuv, more especially the 
pre-igi4 pious communities, launched a few days after the delegates 
left Zurich, could have spelled the doom of Jewish national hopes, so 
lately soaring. The outbreaks originated through religious incitement. 
Some weeks earlier the Supreme Moslem Council, of which the 
president was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Mohammed Amin el- 
Husseini, had begun cutting a new door from the Aqsa Mosque 
directly into the enclosure of the Kotel Maaravi the Western Wall 
behind it. These building works were an infringement of the status 
quo regulations at the Western Wall; they were intended to give 
Moslem worshippers direct access from the Mosque area into the ap- 
proach to the Jewish shrine. Much to general Jewish indignation, the 
Palestine Administration took no effective steps to halt the breach of 
the standing regulations, and of the wall, and tension began to mount. 

The Agency Council had ended its sittings at Zurich on Wednes- 
day. That same evening was Erev Tisha b'Ab, the eve of Lamenta- 
tions commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 
70 CE; throughout that night thousands of pious Jews made the 
pilgrimage through the walled Old City to the Kotel Maaravi, The 
next day, the 9th of Ab, a protest parade of some two thousand 
Jewish youths marched to the Wall as a demonstration against the 
supine attitude of the authorities towards the Moslem building works. 
It was followed on Friday by an incursion of hundreds of inflamed 
Moslems from the Mosque area into the Wall enclosure, where they 
damaged and destroyed prayer-books and ritual articles and 
wounded the Jewish beadle and another Jewish bystander. 

Passions mounted in Jerusalem throughout the ensuing week, and 
the climax came with the attacks by armed Arab townsmen and peas- 
ants, nine days after Tisha b'Ab, on 23 August. It was the signal for the 
massacres that took place among the Jewish communities at Hebron 
and Safad, and the assaults on Jewish settlements elsewhere. Before 
the violence was quelled, 133 Jews were killed and 339 injured; and 
116 Arabs were killed and 232 wounded, mainly in fighting British 
police and troops. Property and livestock damage ran into hundreds 
of thousands of pounds. 

The after-effects were considerable and far-reaching. Weizmann 
received the news of the initial attacks in Jerusalem as though * struck 
by a thunderbolt', as he wrote in his autobiography. He and Mrs 



The 

War 

Tears 



14 With Mrs 
Weizmann 
sailing on Lake 
Kinneret, 1944 

15 With Mrs 
Weizmann, 
New York, 1943 





TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 225 

Weizmann returned hurriedly to London, where he started on his 
futile round of calls and attempted interviews with leading members 
of the Government. He tried to see the Prime Minister, Ramsay 
MacDonald, but his efforts were fruitless. The Colonial Secretary, 
Lord Passfield (formerly Sidney Webb), no friend of the Zionist cause 
at the best of times, similarly avoided seeing Weizmann for some 
time; when he called at Passfield's home with Colonel Josiah Wedg- 
wood, they were received only by Lady Passfield (Beatrice Webb). In 
their conversation she showed little sympathy for what had hap- 
pened; Dr Weizmann quoted her remarkable comment: C I can't 
understand why the Jews make such a fuss over a few dozen of their 
people killed in Palestine. As many are killed every week in London 
in traffic accidents, and no one pays any attention.' 

The trend of impending developments became obvious to the 
Zionist President before long. As he wrote, 'When at last I managed 
to see Passfield and his friends in the Colonial Office I realized at 
once that they would use this opportunity to curtail Jewish immigra- 
tion into Palestine. . . . The machinery was set in motion for the politi- 
cal attack on our position in Palestine.* From then on it was a long, 
hard and painful struggle against the Socialist Government and the 
entrenched bureaucracy at the Colonial Office: the Foreign Office 
was not to enter the arena against Zionism until almost two decades 
later: and Weizmann fought it, both in and out of presidential office, 
with vigour and determination. 

One document of that period that makes interesting reading now, 
thirty-three years later, was a memorandum drawn up at a confer- 
ence of prominent Jewish personalities at Marienbad, in Czechoslo- 
vakia. The conference, summoned on 28 August 1929, five days after 
the Jerusalem outbreak of rioting, framed ten specific demands that 
Dr Weizmann was asked to present on behalf of Palestine Jewry to 
the British Government. The memorandum began by urging White- 
hall e to issue a statement in clear and unmistakable terms that the 
recent disturbances in Palestine on the part of the Arabs have in no 
way affected its policy regarding the establishment of the Jewish 
National Home as enunciated in the Balfour Declaration and laid 
down in the terms of the Mandate for Palestine'. 

The other demands set out in the memorandum pertained to the 
remedying of salient shortcomings in British policy, more particularly 
in the spheres of immigration and defence and in regard to the status 
of the Western Wall. The signatories were Chaim Nachman Bialik, 
who presided, Meyer Dizengoff, David Yellin, Dr Benzion Mossin- 
sohn, Dr Moshe Glickson, Morris Rothenberg, Meyer W. Weisgal, 
Dr F. Rottenstreich, Dr Nahum Goldmann, Nathan D. Kaplan, and 



228 

Paper, none the less led in due course to a significant change in the 
official attitude. 

It was Weizmann's view that, irrespective of its form as a docu- 
ment, 'the letter rectified the situation'. Under its terms the Palestine 
Administration changed from cold to lukewarm towards the Jewish 
national affair, especially after Sir Arthur Wauchope succeeded Sir 
John Chancellor in 1932 as High Commissioner. Immigration rose 
to 40,000 in 1934 and to 62,000 the following year. Weizmann 
emphasized a salutary contrast: * Jabotinsky, the extremist, testifying 
before the Shaw Commission, had set 30,000 a year as a satisfactory 
figure.' 

Throughout his career the pattern of Weizmann's activities fell 
broadly into three well-defined divisions: the external political 
struggle, the internal political struggle, and his intermittent return 
to science. In his political guise he was active on two fronts : the one, 
vis-a-vis the statesmen, politicians and government officials of Great 
Britain, the United States, and other countries; the other, vis-a-vis 
the politicos, party members and sectarians of the Zionist movement 
and its fringe bodies, whether on the extreme right or the extreme 
left, both inside and outside the Zionist Organization. From the 
clamour and tumult of these battles, from the dust and din of many 
a Congress fracas, from the hurts caused by 'the slings and arrows of 
outrageous fortune', he often turned with relief to his beloved labora- 
tory; there are many indications to show his olfactory preference for 
the smell of chemicals to the smell of Zionist party strife. 

Detached though he was in habit of mind and thought, and scorn- 
ful of petty intrigues and bickering, he was not insusceptible to the 
barbs of internal criticism; indeed, he sometimes displayed an undue 
sensitivity to them. An illustration of this facet of his character can 
be seen in his reply to critics at the Seventeenth Congress at Basle in 

I93 1 - 

It was at the evening session on Tuesday, 7 July. He began by say- 
ing that as e at all previous Congresses, it has again been my fate to 
listen for hours on end to criticism and attacks against myself this 
time perhaps to a greater extent than ever before.' To his mind, the 
moment was too grave for them to indulge in polemics; it was a 
difficult time for Zionism, and the gravity of the hour imposed 
upon all of them the utmost degree of responsibility for their utter- 
ances. 

He vigorously defended the Executive's handling of the 'Mac- 
Donald Letter' issue. It was perfectly plain from the terms of the 
letter itself, he said, that where a conflict existed, it was the letter and 
not the (Passfield) White Paper that must prevail. Such was the 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 229 

opinion of authoritative legal and political circles in England. Then, 
in one of his famous mordant broadsides: e l have been unfortunately 
unable to descry in the speeches of the Opposition any hint as to how 
the existing discrepancy between the possible and the desirable is to 
be removed.' The concluding part of his address reads today like a 
litany of faith. He said: 

We Jews have always had to suffer from being misunderstood. 
Zionism and its realization in Palestine is an attempt to remove 
this misunderstanding. It is perhaps one of the greatest of our 
difficulties, and it would be naive to believe that ten years of work 
suffice to overcome such obstacles. I do not believe that Palestine 
can be attained through a short-cut. What I believe is that we 
shall attain our National Home through hard tedious and deep 
suffering. We are all bound up together in strong faith in the 
Zionist idea and its realization. But deep faith in a cause is not 
manifested through heroic phrases but through the patience with 
which daily difficulties are met. In this spirit we must continue on 
our way without hesitation. . . . 

According to the Congress protocol, there was loud and prolonged 
applause at the end of his reply. But the mood of majority was 
inexorable; and on a roll-call ballot, they passed a resolution of non- 
confidence in his policy. Thus was he voted out of office. 

It was a bitter moment and a bitter pill to swallow. The memory 
of it was to linger for many years, until the end of his life. Yet at that 
juncture, as he recorded later, he fought against brooding over the 
event or allowing his emotions to overpower his judgment. Although 
troubled by some misgivings about his age and the rapid advances 
made by chemistry since he had left it, he decided to open a labora- 
tory in London. He was now in his fifty-eighth year and had not been 
inside a laboratory, except for a casual visit, for some thirteen years, 
since 1918. It was a daring step to take; he felt as if he were starting 
out in science all over again. 

One might interpolate at this point, as an illustration of the 
dichotomy which had developed in his life, the reminiscence of a 
conversation Mrs Weizmann had with him in 1917. As she recalled it 
many years later, he had finished his work on acetone, and he said 
to her, e l cannot serve two mistresses, politics and science. I must 
choose between one of them. Which shall I give up?' She went on: 
'This wise man, who was extraordinarily naive in some respects, 
added, " If I give up science, it won't be for long. Jews need the Land, 
Eastern European Jews need the country. American Jews have the 
money. It is simple: Jews will give the money, we shall transport the 



230 

people to Palestine, the problem will be settled, and I shall go back 
to my beloved science." 5 

As Mrs Weizmann commented, it was not to be; he was taken 
away from science. And one cannot help but speculate that, at the 
back of his mind, he always felt he had made the wrong choice. 

But in spite of the drawbacks of a long absence from research, Dr 
Weizmann embarked with some success on new ventures in organic 
and biochemistry. After the Daniel Sieff Research Institute began to 
function in 1934, his scientific publications poured out in steady suc- 
cession until 1951; and they form a substantial number of the 
seventy-seven papers he contributed, during his scientific periods, to 
leading professional journals. 

Like Cincinnatus, Weizmann was not permitted to remain in retire- 
ment without interruption. But it took the Zionists much less time to 
importune him with requests and saddle him with tasks than the 
nineteen years before the Romans in their day sought out their leader 
on his farm. 

That Weizmann was not entirely averse from entertaining these 
offers may be judged from his remarks: C I found it impossible, in 
those years of crisis ... to abstract myself even temporarily from 
Jewish life.' But, this time unlike Cincinnatus, he was not offered 
dictatorship over his people; Zionist procedures were far too demo- 
cratic for that. 

Thus there came about that period in Weizmann's life when, in 
spite of his devotion to laboratory routines, he found himself 'loaded 
with outside obligations'. It was an indeterminate kind of existence; 
he was not actually in formal office, yet informally he was still part of 
the Zionist establishment. He was turned to for counsel, advice and 
active help time without number; and he continued to occupy the 
presidency of the Jewish Agency and Zionist Organization in all but 
name: a circumstance that greatly annoyed Nahum Sokolow, the 
official incumbent. 

His 'outside obligations' during the interregnum between 1931 
and 1935 included the presidency of the English Zionist Federation 
and of the Youth Aliya, and the chairmanship of the Central Bureau 
for the Settlement of German Jews set up by the Jewish Agency 
when Hitler's menace became potent. He continued his extensive 
exchange of correspondence with people all over the world, much of 
it by hand, as evidenced by the holographs in the Rehovoth archives. 
Some of these letters survive in draft form; they were never mailed. 
One of his favourite maxims was, c You never regret the letters you 
do not send.' 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 23! 

Among other chores Weizmann undertook fund-raising missions 
overseas. His tour of South African Jewish communities with Mrs 
Weizmann, and accompanied by Dr Alexander Goldstein, on behalf 
of Keren Hayesod during the first five months of 1932, was an un- 
qualified moral and financial triumph. Not only did he bring the 
eagerly awaited word of Zion to scores of small communities, some 
of them hardly more than a score of families in size, but he achieved 
a record collection unparalleled in any previous campaign in the 
Union. There was hardly a city, town or market centre where he did 
not address a Zionist society, communal organization, club or lodge. 
Their itinerary quartered the map Potchefstroom, Krugersdorp, 
Pretoria, Johannesburg, Germiston, Benoni, to which a capacity 
audience flocked from many small townships and outlying farms on 
the veldt i Durban, Bloemfontein, Kimberley; Burghersdorp and 
Queenstown; East London, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Oudts- 
hoorn, and Capetown; the Rhodesias, North and South. These names 
are taken at random from their travel schedule; these Jewish com- 
munities were among the many that increased their contributions to 
Keren Hayesod by as much as fifty per cent over the 1930 campaign 
figure: the 'tradition' in South African Jewry has always been 
biennial drives. 

It was not entirely unpleasant to travel around in South African 
summer, and they had relaxations including a visit to a huge game 
reserve, where they saw lions roaming around freely. But it must have 
been an exacting routine before they embarked on 13 May on the 
SS Windsor Castle from the Cape of England. Weizmann's humour 
remained pristine; and an amusing incident occurred at one of 
the final banquets of the tour. The chairman of the evening rose 
and announced his donation of an equivalent amount in guineas 
to the Hebrew numerical value of the guest of honour's first 
name: Chaim 68. Whereupon Weizmann stood up and remarked 
amid loud laughter and applause, that he had a second name, 
Azriel, of which the Hebrew letters combined into a total value 
of 318! 

One message which Weizmann left behind, during an address at 
Bloemfonetein, holds an authentic ring of prophecy that thirty years 
of history have failed to dim: 

With all the difficulties in their way, the Jews demonstrated that 
Palestine could be built up and that Jews could build it up. They 
conducted their work by the strength of a great ideal. This ideal 
moved the earth and a little of heaven. It produced a new breed 
Qf men as if by a miracle. 



232 

During the four years he remained out of supreme Zionist office, from 
the Seventeenth until the Nineteenth Zionist Congress, Dr Weizmann 
forsook one aspect of his pattern of activities; of this he wrote in 
Trial and Error: 

I took no part in the inner political struggles of the Zionist 
Organization and did not even attend the Eighteenth Congress, 
that of 1933. I was extremely chary of lending colour to any 
accusation that I was 'planning a return', or that I was in any 
way hampering the activities of the Executive then in power. 

But he bent his full energies to the two other aspects, the external 
political struggle and the creation of the Daniel Sieff Research Insti- 
tute at Rehovoth. Within the compass of the first, he went on with 
his quiet diplomacy in the high quarters where he was persona grata , 
with the knowledge of members of the Executive, Selig Brodetsky 
among them; while as for the second, he felt that in returning to 
science he was helping to fashion a new and vital force in the build- 
ing of the National Home. 

Late in December 1932 he paid the last visit of his life to Germany. 
He went to Munich to consult with Richard Willstatter on the scien- 
tific programme of the Daniel Sieff Institute and to invite him to the 
opening ceremony the following spring. Whilst there, at a gathering 
in the home of the local Jewish community head, Eli Strauss, a 
veteran Zionist and an old friend, he bluntly warned them to clear 
out of the country. 'Hitler means every word he said, 3 Weizmann 
cautioned. * If you cannot get out now, send your money to Palestine. 
We don't want it, we won't use it. Keep it there, so that when you 
eventually come, you won't be penniless,' 

In the event, about eight million pounds sterling in goods and other 
media were sent from Germany to Palestine under the Ha?avara or 
transfer scheme. 

It was for the same cause, the rescue of German Jewry, that he 
undertook a brief and dramatic visit to the United States early in 
July 1933 at the invitation of Meyer Weisgal. He spoke on Jewish 
Day at the 'Century of Progress' exposition in Chicago organized by 
Weisgal. The vast Soldiers Field with its 131,000 seats was insufficient 
to hold the concourse drawn from all over Illinois and other states 
by the magic of Weizmann's name. And Weizmann received the fee 
of 100,000 dollars which Weisgal promised if he came a handsome 
honorarium for those days, and for these, too! and which he 
utilized, as he said, to open 'a new business' the fund for German 
Jewish refugees. It was while travelling to the United States by ship 
on the Saturday that he received word, both from Mrs Weizmann 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 

and Selig Brodetsky, of the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff on the beach 
in Tel Aviv. Mrs Weizmann, who had been told of the dastardly act 
over the telephone from London, cabled him from the country home 
of Lord William Percy where she was a week-end guest, and Brodet- 
sky cabled from London. He at once sent back a message expressing 
his shock and conveying his condolences. 

The Daniel Sieff Research Institute was inaugurated with much 
eclat on 3 April 1934, on a site adjoining the Jewish Agency's Agri- 
cultural Experiment Station at Rehovoth. It was an impressive occa- 
sion. The notables of science rubbed shoulders with notables in other 
walks of life. A new epoch of scientific pioneering in Jewish Palestine 
was initiated. As Israel M. Sieff put it at a memorial gathering in 
Rehovoth twenty years later: 

He saw in the Institute the beginning of true scientific research 
and the acquisition of knowledge and experience which would 
fructify the life and the spirit of the country. . . . He saw scientific 
knowledge as a means of breaking down every obstacle which 
stood in the way of the economic and social progress of the coun- 
try, as well as a means of accelerating the application and practice 
of fundamental knowledge to the life of the people. 

From then on Weizmann spent a good deal of his time at this beloved 
centre of research whenever he was in the country; and made use of 
his study in the Daniel Sieff Institute both for his scientific work and 
for political meetings and consultations after his resumption of the 
Zionist presidency. It was more than a pied-a-terre in Rehovoth; it 
was a haven. Science had always been his sheet anchor. 

When the Nineteenth Congress met at Lucerne in 1935, Weiz- 
mann, not without some justified misgivings, acceded to the pleas of 
supporters and former adversaries to return to the official leadership. 
His decision stemmed from a keen recognition of the increasingly 
critical situation in the Mediterranean area, and he reached it not 
without a sardonic reflection that he would probably * again be 
made the scapegoat for the sins of the British Government'. For he 
remained loyal to his spiritual affinity with England and to his firm 
belief that the Zionists must continue to throw in their lot with that 
country. 

Intervening in the general debate on 27 August, he declared: 

Notwithstanding our differences of opinion with the Mandatory 
Power, the Jewish people must never forget that it is to England 
that we owe this opportunity of discharging a memorable historic 
function. It is only to be expected that transitory difficulties will 



2 34 1929-1939 

from time to time arise in our day-to-day contacts, but there will 
none the less always remain the basic solidarity between ourselves 
and Great Britain, of which our achievements in Palestine are the 
outward and visible sign. 

And also: 

From the great cultural and scientific centre which is now growing 
up in Palestine, we hope that light and learning may radiate 
throughout the neighbouring countries, and that their Arab in- 
habitants may be among the first to benefit. But that will only be 
possible when we have built up a strong Jewish Palestine, and 
have thereby assured peaceful co-operation between all elements 
of the population, both there and in Transjordan. 

Again he had to pick up the threads loosened or severed when he had 
stepped out of office four years later. Once more there were the 
meetings with Prime Ministers and government officials, the contacts 
with prominent members of the League of Nations and its Permanent 
Mandates Commission, and with an eminent trio in particular 
William Rappard of Switzerland, Lord Lugard of Great Britain, and 
Pierre Orts of Belgium. Once more the innumerable talks, the private 
interviews, the conferences in camera, the elucidations and repre- 
sentations. 

It was ceaseless, purposeful and patient diplomacy, which drew its 
sole authority and support from moral principles and the canons of 
social justice. It had to counter the evasiveness of governments and 
functionaries who weighed up ethical positions against political ex- 
pedience, and made no bones about which must be the more com- 
pelling. There could hardly have been a world diplomat, whose 
letters of credence were his own persuasiveness, more experienced 
than Weizmann in the shifts and stratagems practised by those with 
whom he had dealings in the capitals of the world. 

But he had never been a cynic for the sake of sterile cynicism, nor 
a defeatist accepting the shabbiness of defeat as an ineluctable alter- 
native; in spite of the interminable frustrations and disappointments 
with which his mission to the Gentiles was studded, he persevered in 
what came to be universally recognized as the greatest one-man 
diplomatic errand in history. 

Several months after the close of the Zionist Congress at Lucerne, 
or, to be precise, at the end of December 1935, the Colonial Office in 
London for some reason felt the time propitious for the revival of the 
proposal for a Legislative Council in Palestine. Upon being ap- 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 235 

preached Dr Weizmann and his colleagues on the Agency Executive 
rejected the plan in the form offered, on the grounds that its intent 
and implementation would after a while crystallize the Yishuv at 
permanent minority status. On the other hand, the Arab nationalist 
leaders appeared inclined to proceed with the talks; although their 
attitude had always been outright repudiation of the Mandate 
because it incorporated the Balfour Declaration, and their pro- 
claimed policy was the complete independence of Palestine under 
Arab majority rule, a slight crack developed in their stone-walled 
front, and there were signs of an amenable response on their part to 
Sir Arthur Wauchope's overtures. 

They were invited to send a deputation to London representing 
the five different Arab parties. But under the impact of the familiar 
clan rivalries they failed to reach agreement on the composition of 
the delegation, and their collective amenability evaporated. In any 
event, the Arab rebellion that broke out in the wake of the general 
Arab strike in Palestine in the spring of 1936 finally scotched the 
plan altogether. From then until the fateful post-second World War 
period it was not to be heard of again. 

That was the year of Haile Selassie's departure into exile from 
Ethiopia after vainly resisting Mussolini's invasion; of Hitler's coup 
in the Rhineland; of the widespread strikes in France; of the great 
Communist purge trials in Russia; and of the Spanish civil war. 
Across this ominous canvas the Arab rising blasted its fiery path as 
yet another eruptive element of the doomed latter half of the 'thirties. 
A perplexed and fearful world read the headlines and wondered what 
new disaster was on its way. 

For the better part of three years, at each end of the Mediter- 
ranean, the civil war in Spain and the fighting in Palestine dragged 
on their parallel bitter courses. In the one country, in the West, inter- 
vening by scheming Powers was overt; in the other, in the East, it 
was covert. By the end of the Palestine rebellion in August 1939, the 
toll had reached 5,774 casualties, of whom 450 Jews were killed and 
1,944 wounded, 140 British killed and 476 wounded, and 2,287 Arabs 
killed and 1,477 wounded: of the latter, many by their own com- 
patriots for reasons of revenge and blood-feuds, besides those who fell 
or were injured in clashes with the security forces and Jewish de- 
fenders. The property damage in urban and rural areas, and the 
harm done to the country's economy, were incalculable. 

Throughout the beleaguered years the Yishuv pursued a policy of 
Havlagah, or self-restraint, which Weizmann extolled as e one of the 
great moral political acts of modern times'. The concept of Havlagah 
contained more than a discipline of non-aggression and refusal to 



236 

launch physical reprisals, and of self-defence only in the face of direct 
attack. It provided also a vigorous response to violence through the 
medium of constructive effort, and it was the spur to the creation of 
'political facts by practical acts'. In short, the Arab rebellion of 
1936-1939 was matched by a new accession of Zionist land pioneer- 
ing, the dominant theme of the epoch which witnessed the building 
of the watch-tower and stockade settlements and of which Hanita, in 
Upper Galilee, begun in 1936, was the proud symbol. 

The cycle of civil commotion and administrative restrictions 
imposed upon the victims was a heavy burden for the Yishuv to 
carry. Dr Weizmann was compelled to admit ruefully in later years 
that 'violence paid political dividends to the Arabs, while Jewish 
Havlagah was expected to be its own reward'. The Palestine Govern- 
ment's report for 1936 to the League Mandates Commission did not 
even mention the Jewish policy of self-restraint, and in June 1937, 
after the report was published, Weizmann was provoked into writing 
from London a letter of stinging rebuke to High Commissioner 
Wauchope in Jerusalem. 

But the carcass of those murdered years hid a trove of honey, as 
did the carcass of the lion told of in the fourteenth chapter of the 
Book of Judges; and to the sweetness thereof, as Samson testified in 
his day, may be likened some of the circumstances that produced the 
Report of the Palestine Royal Commission. 

The Palestine Royal Commission marks a watershed in Zionist his- 
tory, and, indeed, in the history of the State of Israel, for it was at 
one of its hearings that the notion of Jewish sovereignty on a specific 
territory was given concrete expression. For the Zionist movement it 
was the turning-point in the political struggle for official acceptance 
of the Jewish people's historic right in Eretz Israel; this was the first 
time that a body as august as the Royal Commission had given 
thought and voice to the very idea of such acceptance: and it might 
well be regarded as the moment of dawning truth for the appraisal 
of Zionist realities. 

The Royal Commission was appointed by the British Government 
in May 1936, a month or so after the fresh outbreak of Arab violence, 
'to investigate the causes of unrest and alleged grievances of Arabs or 
of Jews' and to submit appropriate recommendations for their solu- 
tion. It was not until November of that year, however, that the 
Commission actually went out to Palestine; and by the time it left, 
two months later, it had heard 113 witnesses at 30 public and 40 
private sessions, and on returning to London heard 10 more at one 
public and 8 private sessions. 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 237 

Much has been written over the years about the Royal Commission 
and the high quality of its composition. Writing in Trial and Error, 
Dr Weizmann gave his judgment as follows: 

Many of us felt that this was not only an extremely competent 
body, but that it would prove to be both thorough and impartial. 
The findings of such a commission, we believed, would go a long 
way towards solving our problems. For my own part ... I became 
deeply convinced that a new and possibly decisive phase in our 
movement might now be beginning. Knowing something of the 
records of the members of the commission, I had complete con- 
fidence in their fairness and their intellectual honesty. 

At first, when the questions were put to him at a private hearing by 
the Commission, Dr Weizmann thought he was being led into a trap 
and he was consequently wary in his replies. But then, as he sensed 
the direction towards which the exchanges were going, he began to 
realize the significance of the trend developing among the members, 
although his answers remained equally cautious. It was from that 
time that he projected his own thinking to encompass the still-vague 
concept of Partition and of a Jewish State in divided Palestine. 

His own first appearance was at a public hearing in Jerusalem on 
25 November 1936. He had come up from Rehovoth, where he was 
busy at his research, in that same laboratory where Lord Peel visited 
him and asked what he was doing, to be told : ' I am creating absorp- 
tive capacity.' The Zionist President, now two days short of his 
sixty-second birthday, was received with great deference and con- 
sideration. He spoke for over two hours, with only one short break, 
mostly from notes and without a prepared text. 

One passage in his address has won an immortal place in history. 
In dwelling on the position soon to be the plight of the Jewish 
communities of Europe, he declared: 

There are in this part of the world six million people doomed to 
be pent up in places where they are not wanted, and for whom the 
world is divided into places where they cannot live, and places 
into which they cannot enter. 

The task of the Royal Commission is complex, and it has come at 
a time when the Jewish position is darker than ever before, even in 
our history. 

It was not until the fifty-first meeting, held privately in Jerusalem on 
Friday, 8 January 193% that the subject of partition was first 
broached to him. No one was with Weizmann at the time; he came 
alone. Those present at the hearing were the six members of the 



238 1929-1939 

Commission Earl Peel, Sir Horace Rumbold, Sir Laurie Hammond, 
Sir William Carter, Sir Harold Morris, and Professor Reginald 
Coupland; the Secretary, Mr John Martin, of the Colonial Office; a 
representative of the Palestine Administration, Mr P. G. Heathcoat- 
Amory; and a shorthand-writer. 

It was an epochal confrontation, for out of it burgeoned the first 
practical gropings towards the solid basis of a Jewish State. As Weiz- 
mann was to write later: 

I was asked how the idea struck me, and naturally answered that I 
could not tell on the spur of the moment, nor would I give my 
own impressions except after consultation with my colleagues. 
Actually I felt that the suggestion held out great possibilities and 
hopes. Something new had been born into the Zionist movement, 
something which had to be handled with great care and tender- 
ness, which should not be permitted to become a matter for crude 
slogans and angry controversy. 

He started out with a brief statement discussing the position in the 
Arab world and mentioning certain Zionist overtures towards certain 
influential Arab groups, and made some points about the glaring 
imbalance of Arab feudal ownership. He was sharply interrogated on 
these statements by Lord Peel, Sir Laurie Hammond, and Sir Horace 
Rumbold. He then spoke of the possibility of "this Commission con- 
verting itself at some stage or another into a negotiating Commission' 
between the parties involved, and added: 'You would find us ready 
to go a long way towards meeting the situation, say for five years, 
for ten years. 5 Until then the Arab leaders had not appeared before 
the Commission, but had now agreed to do so, and Dr Weizmann 
thought that their decision 'indicates a certain amount of change of 
heart and it may be something which, if carefully followed up by the 
Commission, may lead on to something. The Mufti should not stand 
in the way of a big thing like peace.' 

A few minutes later, about the middle of the hearing, Professor 
Coupland sprang the surprise. He couched it this way: 

Dr Weizmann, looking ahead and supposing, for the sake of argu- 
ment, that your hopeful prospect of harmony proves unrealizable 
in the course of the next five or ten years, what practicable 
alternative might there be? 

With that question in your mind, would you comment on this 
scheme, which really deserves to be called more than cantoniza- 
tion; it is really partition on a federal basis, as we see it. ... If 
after a period of federal partition, the only solution, or a solution, 
seemed to be effective partition, meaning that in due course and 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 239 

under a treaty system these two blocks of Palestine become Inde- 
pendent States of the type of Egypt and Iraq in treaty relations 
with Great Britain, that is really the ultimate point on which I 
want to get your view. 

Weizmann was still hesitant about committing himself. He remarked 
that he would not 'raise the formal point that it is against the Man- 
date; we are all aware of that point and I do not want to waste your 
time 3 . Coupland admitted that e it implies the termination of the 
Mandate'. Thereupon Weizmann said that 'this possible solution, 
perhaps in five or ten years' time, would be an easier thing than the 
present situation', and he added: 'I think it is based on some 
erroneous conception that we have large tracts of land today in one 
block.' 

The meeting then began to talk of the areas that would be avail- 
able for the proposed respective 'blocks of Palestine'. After indicating 
the total areas in Jewish possession in various parts of the country 
('next to nothing from Gaza to Jaffa, and in the coastal plain we 
have 550,000 dunams out of 3,000,000 dunams, that is, actual land 
in possession'), Dr Weizmann stated that 'in ten years* time, if we 
are allowed to work and attend to our work, and work more or less 
in the plains, then it may be more compact and possibly it may be 
better'. 

He continued to feel his way warily. Answering Sir Morris Carter, 
he said there was not very much more than the 550,000 dunams in 
the coastal plain either under contract or on option, while as for 
the Valley of Jezreel there were 180,000 out of 450,000 dunams. 

'Unfortunately, we are not sufficiently strong in any part of Pales- 
tine to say that this is a basis wide enough/ he remarked. 

'You would be outnumbered? 5 Sir Laurie Hammond asked. 

'Either we shall be outnumbered or we shall have to "dominate 3 * 
or to rule the people who do not want the colony to be there,' he 
replied. 

Towards the end of the hearing, the following dramatic exchange 
occurred: 

PROFESSOR COUPLAND : If there were no other way out to peace, 
might it not be a final and peaceful settlement to terminate the 
Mandate by agreement and split Palestine into two halves, the 
plain being an Independent Jewish State, as independent as 
Belgium, with treaty relations with Great Britain, whatever 
arrangements you like with us, and the rest of Palestine, plus 
Trans-Jordania, being an Independent Arab State, as independent 
as Arabia. That is the ultimate idea. 



240 

SIR LAURIE HAMMOND: With a British Entente? 

DR WEIZMANN: Yes. I appreciate that. Permit me not to give a 

definite answer now. Let me think of it. 

Finally, when the Chairman thanked him and he was about to with- 
draw, Dr Weizmann said, * I have to thank you all for your patience 
and kindness to me. Perhaps I may have the opportunity of coming 
back to this problem.' 

The opportunity to come back to the problem One of these 

occasions was soon presented. On one of the early Saturdays in Feb- 
ruary 19375 Weizmann and Coupland arranged to meet at Nahalal. 
He came there from Rehovoth whilst the other was brought to the 
village by Joshua Gordon, liaison officer of the Jewish Agency, 
directly from Jerusalem. 

It was a drab winter day and they had to be provided with gum- 
boots to wade through the thick mud on the village paths from the 
cars to the Girls' Agricultural School, where facilities for the secret 
conference had been arranged. The two of them spent the whole 
day together indoors. They did not budge from their quarters until the 
evening. From morning onwards, as the villagers outside speculated 
over what was going on, they exhaustively discussed partition and its 
implications. 

We have a curious record of Coupland' s attitude towards their 
conversation from Coupland himself, given in a private conversation 
much later, in November 1946, with Mr Aubrey Eban, who became 
Israel Ambassador to the United States and is now President of the 
Weizmann Institute of Science. 

When Eban saw Coupland in Oxford in the middle of November 
the latter was still very firm in his support of partition, which after a 
lapse of more than nine years still seemed to him the e only solution 
compatible with justice and logic the lesser injustice'. 

Coupland admitted to Eban that his conviction about the urgency 
of partition came to him during this conversation he had with 
Weizmann in Nahalal. After listening to Weizmann's definition of 
the conditions necessary for the National Home to flourish, he 
reached the conclusion that these conditions could never be expected 
from the British Government in its then strategic situation. He had 
said to Weizmann: * There needs to be an operation; no honest doctor 
will recommend aspirins and a hot-water bottle.' Coupland added 
that he would not have offered partition as the Commission's pro- 
posal but for this talk with Weizmann. 

Thus this tete-a-tete in a shabby little Palestinian hut created the 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 34! 

germ of what some years later was to oecome the State of Israel. 
Weizmann was well aware of the implications of their talk: as they 
emerged at starlight he said, turning to the group of farmers standing 
there, 'Hevra, comrades, today we laid the basis for the Jewish 
State!' 

Weizmann was going on to Haifa to spend the night with his 
mother. He told one of the veteran settlers, Yaaqov Oury, in Yiddish: 
'Itzter gei ich ouzo gen di besoora mein mammen I'm going now to 
tell my mother the news!' 

Undoubtedly there was the stuff of drama and history in that 
encounter at Nahalal. Indeed, the circumstances were such that if, in 
his Diaries, Theodor Herzl were able to declare with justice, 'At 
Basel, I founded the Jewish State,' then surely Chaim Weizmann 
was equally warranted in asserting with no less candour exactly four 
decades later, c At Nahalal, I brought the Jewish State within our 
grasp!' 

But of course, there was at that time still some very hard slogging 
ahead. The real struggle might be said to have barely started. The 
Royal Commission's brilliant report, a unanimous one to which all 
six members put their signatures, was published by the British 
Government on 7 July 1937. Part III of that 4oo-page document, 
entitled 'The Possibility of a Lasting Settlement', analysed *the 
problem of Palestine' which had been created by 'the force of 
circumstances'. The judgment was a firm one: 

'The conflict (between Arabs and Jews) has grown steadily more 
bitter. It has been marked by a series of five Arab outbreaks, cul- 
minating in the rebellion of last year. . . . This intensification of con- 
flict will continue. The estranging force of conditions inside Palestine 
is growing year by year.' 

The proposal for the 'drastic treatment' of the problem came in 
Chaper XXII on page 380 of the Report (published as Command 
Paper 5479): 

'We feel justified in recommending that Your Majesty's Govern- 
ment should take the appropriate steps for the termination of the 
present Mandate on the basis of Partition.' 

The commissioners added that there were 'three essential features 
of such a plan' : 

' It must be practicable. It must conform to our obligations. It must 
do justice to the Arabs and the Jews.' 

What did Weizmann think of the plan? 

He made his position crystal-clear in Trial and Error some ten 
years or so later, and his words have a touch of authentic prophecy 



2 4 2 1929-1939 

as we look back over the historic experience of the past more than 
fourteen years since the State of Israel was established: 

It was my own deep conviction that God had always chosen small 
countries through which to convey his messages to humanity. It 
was from Judea and from Greece, not from Carthage or Babylonia, 
that the great ideas which form the most precious possession of 
mankind emerged. I believed that a small Jewish State, well 
organized, living in peace with its neighbours, a State on which 
would be lavished the love and devotion of Jewish communities 
throughout the world such a State would be a great credit to us 
and an equally great contribution to civilization. 

What did the British Government think? 

In its White Paper on policy for Palestine accompanying the re- 
port, the Government offered a series of interim administrative 
measures * while the form of a scheme of partition is being worked 
out* which, in effect, would reduce the Jewish National Home to 
farcical proportions. As Weizmann pointed out, 'These measures 
were put into effect before Jewish opinion on partition had been 
tested. They were the first steps towards the nullification of the 
Balfour Declaration; actual nullification came with the White Paper 
of 1939. It was the classic technique of the step-by-step sell-out of 
small nations which the great democracies practised in the appease- 
ment period.' 

What did the Zionist Congress of 1937 think? 

Weizmann had always held the opinion that a Jewish State, even 
if located in only part of Palestine, could maintain an eventual popu- 
lation of three million. But the Twentieth Congress at Zurich split 
over the issue. Passions ran high between the Ja-sagers and the Nein- 
sagers, the yeas and the nays; Weizmann stood up staunchly to his 
critics. In his address on 4 August, he urged that two criteria be 
applied to the principle of partition after all, it was only the 
principle, and not the actual scheme, which Britain accepted: 

Firstly, does it offer a basis for a genuine growth of Jewish life, for 
the development of the young Palestinian culture, for rearing true 
men and women, for creating a Jewish agriculture, industry, 
literature in short, all that the ideal of Zionism comprises ? 

Secondly, does the proposal contribute to the solution of the 
Jewish problem, a problem pregnant with danger to ourselves and 
to the world? 

And so to the vote, which was to adopt the following resolution: 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 343 

The Congress declares that the scheme of partition put forward by 
the Royal Commission is unacceptable. 

The Congress empowers the Executive to enter into negotiations 
with a view to ascertaining the precise terms of His Majesty's 
Government for the proposed establishment of a Jewish State. 

In such negotiations the Executive shall not commit either itself 
or the Zionist Organization, but in the event of the emergence of 
a definite scheme for the establishment of a Jewish State, such 
scheme shall be brought before a newly elected Congress for 
decision. 

It is a matter of record that no definite scheme was devised. The 
Commission under Sir John Woodhead, which arrived in Palestine in 
April 1938, failed to produce any workable proposals for partition; 
its report in October that year was negative. The Royal Commission 
document, which had tackled the Palestine problem in depth and 
had penetrated to the core of the situation, was buried under the 
mound of British reports, statements of policy, White Papers and 
Blue Books, and similar publications of the three decades of British 
rule in Palestine. 

Yet through the zigzags of British policy and the convulsions of the 
second World War the plan survived, in a state of suspended anima- 
tion, to be reincarnated a decade later at the United Nations 
Assembly in 1947. It is true that this time the British Government 
could scarcely claim any credit for it, but it was this original plan for 
partition that was applied, in so far as it pertained to the Jewish State, 
under UN auspices, and was thus an integral part of the organism 
that became the present State of Israel. 1938 was an inchoate year. 
The external position remained confused and dangerous, with the 
Arab rebellion dragging the country down. General Wavell left the 
country on reappointment. General Haining took his place; and 
Weizmann found time, in April, to see them both. One bright spot of 
those years was the close friendship which he and Mrs Weizmann 
struck up with Orde Wingate, but of course Wingate was at too 
junior a level to be of great political help. 

Internally, the relations within the Agency Executive wore none 
too happy; there was a good deal of friction. But the Political Com- 
mittee, made up of both Zionist and non-Zionist elements, was a 
useful body and Weizmann attached great value to its advice and 
support. He was not overly impressed by certain highly placed non- 
Zionist members of the Anglo- Jewish community, however; and in a 
letter to Sir Simon (now Lord) Marks on 14 May 1938 he wrote: 



I think we have to recognize frankly that they are people who, for 
reasons of their own valid or not, selfish or not are definitely 
against a Jewish State, They were equally against the Balfour 
Declaration, but they have had to acquiesce in it because of the 

success of our work They will oppose a Jewish State as long as 

they can. When it becomes a fait accompli they will grind their 
teeth and acquiesce in it. And when later it is successful, we shall 
find them climbing on the bandwagon. 

The next round in the political struggle came with the St James's 
Palace round-table conference early in 1939. Jewish and Arab rep- 
resentatives, including those of other Middle East countries, were 
brought together by the British Government to discuss and produce a 
settlement. Neville Chamberlain's agreement with Hitler at Munich 
the previous October had hammered home the lesson that these 
parleys were, at the most, a forlorn hope and that the policy of 
appeasement still held sway. Indeed, Weizmann indicated his own 
sceptical evaluation when, at a meeting of the Palestine Discussions 
Conference Committee set up by the Jewish Agency and held at 
Great Russell Street, he observed: 'The actual presiding officer at the 
(St James's Palace) Conference is not the British Government, but 
Jamal Husseini (the Palestine Arab leader). Whatever he gives his 
consent to, goes through; the moment he puts in a caveat, the thing 
is dropped.' 

The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, delivered the opening 
speech at the Conference on 7 February 1939. In replying, Weizmann 
said: 

The hopes and prayers of millions of Jews scattered throughout 
the world are now centred, with unshaken confidence in British 
good faith, on these deliberations. We believe that all our work in 
Palestine has been the result of a grim necessity to face realities, 
and I would submit that no reality is today more bitter than that 
which the Jewish people is called upon to face We have en- 
deavoured through all these difficult years to maintain that 
co-operation with the British Government which has always been 
the cornerstone of our policy, and we are approaching our present 
task in the same spirit. 

He was unremitting in his efforts to win some form of Arab under- 
standing. During the London conference he had met and held a 
friendly chat with one of the leading Egyptian delegates, Aly Maher 
Pasha; and at the end of March 1939, while en route to Palestine, he 
stopped over in Cairo, where Maher Pasha arranged for him to meet 



TOWARDS THE PRECIPICE 245 

the Prime Minister, Mohammed Mahmoud Pasha, and other Egyp- 
tian statesmen. They received him with cordiality; but, as he 
observed drily, 'Of course, one had to discount, in these unofficial 
conversations, both the usual Oriental politeness and the fact that 
private utterances are somewhat less cautious than official ones.' 
Nothing came of the overtures. 

The White Paper of 17 May 1939 was a negation of even the faint 
wisps of hope that had existed. It provided a new Procrustean bed 
for Jewish national aspirations; there was no alternative but to reject 
it. Weizmann wrote to Leopold Amery in London drawing attention 
to the gloomier aspects of the situation; he broadcast to the Jewish 
community of the United States. He was unflagging in his efforts to 
arouse public opinion. 

Although he had intended remaining at Rehovoth for several 
months, possibly until the 2ist Congress at Geneva, his associates 
urged him to return to address a last-minute personal appeal to 
Prime Minister Chamberlain, and he flew back to London. The 
Prime Minister received him, but that was all; his pleading met with 
no response. 

The House of Commons debate on the 1939 White Paper resulted 
in the familiar line-up of the benchers for and against the Govern- 
ment. Winston Churchill gave one of the great speeches of his career, 
but it produced no change in the Government's policy, and the sym- 
pathetic remarks by pro-Zionist MPs could at the best be only of cold 
comfort to those who divined the realities of the situation facing the 
Jews of Europe. 

Late in the evening of 24 August 1939, Weizmann bade a moving 
farewell to the delegates at the Twenty-first Congress at Geneva. The 
war clouds were gathering thickly. Both he and his auditors were 
in a hurry to return to their homes before the tocsins sounded. 
The atmosphere of the final session was charged with the sombre 
realization of impending destiny! The leave-taking was terribly 
painful. 

Weizmann said in part: 

It is with a heavy heart that I take my leave If, as I hope, 

we are spared in life and our work continues, who knows per- 
haps a new light will shine upon us from the thick black gloom 

My heart is overflowing 

We shall meet again [prolonged applause]. We shall meet again 
in common labour for our land and people. Our people is death- 
less, our land eternal. 

There are some things which cannot fail to come to pass, things 



246 1929-1939 

without which the world cannot be imagined. The remnant shall 
work on, fight on, live on until the dawn of better days. 

Towards that dawn I greet you. May we meet again in peace 
[prolonged applause]. 

(Deep emotion grips the Congress. Dr Weizmann embraces his col- 
leagues on the platform. There are tears in many eyes. Hundreds of 
hands are stretched out towards Dr Weizmann as he leaves the hall. 
Protocol of the Twelfth Session of the sist Zionist Congress, 
24 August 1939.) 

Few of the European delegates of whom Weizmann took leave in 
Geneva that sad evening in the summer of 1939 survived the Nazi 
slaughter-houses. 

The decade of agony was about to begin. 

Mr Julian L. Meltzer, writer and translator, has lived in Jerusalem 
since 1921. For many years he was a working journalist and Pales- 
tine correspondent of the New York Times, 



1939-1949 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 

TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 

ABBA EBAN 



'There is darkness all around us and we cannot see through the 
clouds * 

DR. WEIZMANN. Closing address to the zist Zionist 
Congress, 24 August 1939 



WEIZMANN STEPPED into his car and sped through Geneva towards 
the French frontier. The Soviet-Nazi pact had been announced two 
days ago and Europe now braced itself for the shock of war. The 
lights were going out and none knew when they would be re-kindled. 
Mrs Weizmann and Blanche Dugdale, Balfour's niece, accompanied 
him on his way. His farewell speech had included words of deep 
pathos for the delegates of Polish Jewry. And the Palestine delegates 
were high in his thoughts. Mrs Dugdale was to record that night in 
her diary: 'Chaim embraced Ussishkin and Ben-Gurion as though he 
would never let them go. 3 

The imminent war spelt misery for many nations. For the Jewish 
people it threatened a vast and comprehensive havoc without prece- 
dent in recorded history. Nor was there any prospect of shelter from 
the coming storm, A few months before, the Chamberlain Govern- 
ment had published its White Paper on Palestine which would turn 
the Jewish National Home into a stunted ghetto with locked doors, 
living within a pale of settlement under Arab rule. And now the 
Jewish disaster was merged with the universal tragedy. Weizmann 
had dreamt of a Jewish people, happy and free, restoring the main- 
springs of its vitality in the home where its nationhood was born. He 
had touched multitudes of people, including the leaders of many 
nations, with the ardour and beauty of that dream. The hope was 
now in full eclipse. As the Nazi columns prepared to fall on Europe 
and tear it limb from limb, an immense and seemingly inexorable 
danger menaced every Jewish home. Would the old continent ever 
again sustain a life inspired with those elements of reverence and 
order without which civilization falls into chaos? And even if victory 

249 



250 

came, how many of the Jewish masses nine million of them from 
the Rhine to Eastern Russia would stand a chance of surviving for 
the celebration? 

Weizmann was not an orator of heat and passion. His discourse 
was usually pitched on a low key and hedged in with scientific doubt. 
But he had exaggerated nothing in his last speech to his followers : 
'There is darkness all around us and we cannot see through the 
clouds . . .' 

There flowed into his mind the memories of a previous journey across 
Switzerland to London. It had been in 1914 when the war was a few 
weeks old. His assets then were very few. He was a lecturer in 
chemistry at Manchester University, modest in the hierarchy of a 
Zionist movement which was itself no serious force in international 
politics. Neither he nor the cause which he served had then enjoyed 
the eminence which they now possessed. But there was then a 
promise in the air, of new and wonderful opportunities to be 
snatched from the changing interests and fortunes of the powers. 
History moved in a twilight zone between a world that was dying 
and a new order struggling for birth. And Chaim Weizmann was 
then young and free, unburdened by history, failure, disillusion or 
public office. It was the springtime of his people's hope and it was 
good to be alive. He had swiftly gathered a few men around him, 
watched and nursed his chances, and then intervened in the central 
political arena with such massive authority and sureness of timing as 
to change the whole direction of his people's history. 

The wave of this victory had borne him high on its crest to a 
position of unrivalled leadership in Jewish life. The two decades 
that had passed since then had seen much strife and toil, some disil- 
lusion and great progress towards the goal. The concrete testimony 
of success lay in the 550,000 Jews of Palestine and the busy micro- 
cosm of a free society which they had created. If the Jewries of the 
world had listened to him more seriously there would by now have 
been a larger and stronger base from which to spring. He was des- 
perately aware that time was running out: Arab nationalism, which 
had been inert and almost acquiescent in 1917, was now a robust and 
growing adversary. British statesmanship was awakening from the 
generous impulse of 1917 into a mood in which the space and wealth 
of Arab lands loomed larger than the more imponderable values 
which Zionism expressed. 

Weizmann had suspected that this would happen. The Balfour 
Declaration, like all cherished things, was fragile and of transient 
lease. Everything depended on whether it could be replaced in time 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 25! 

by a geopolitical reality more substantial than itself. By 1939 this had 
neither happened, nor completely failed to happen. Palestine Jewry 
was too real to be entirely ignored, but not so strong a reality as to 
impose a decisive compulsion on future events. Weizmann, the 
diplomat, had implored the powerful Jewries to turn their minds 
away from diplomacy towards the concrete forces which alone gave 
diplomacy its solid content. He recoiled from ringing utterances about 
Jewish statehood which some movements in Jewry regarded as a 
substitute for creating the state itself. The practical toil of settlement 
was for him not a substitute for political sovereignty, but the prior 
condition of its attainment. In all his speeches the business of state- 
building was described in the strong but gentle imagery of organic 
growth. e If you root a tree deep in the soil and water it with love and 
devotion, it will grow and it will flourish and its branches will reach 
to heaven' ! 

His own position in the political world already conveyed a premo- 
nition of Jewish sovereignty. Heads of state received him with 
courtesy, ministers and high officials with apprehensive respect. They 
stood a good chance of being enticed into an unplanned commit- 
ment or exhausted by the tempest of his historic emotion. But they 
behaved towards him as though he were the President of a sovereign 
nation equal in status to their own, engaged as his own emissary in a 
perpetual series of summit conferences. He and they knew that this 
was not formally true; but something in his presence and in their own 
historic imagination forbade them to break the spell. The Jewish 
people had produced a President before it had achieved a State; and 
somehow this made the claim of statehood seem less far-fetched in 
many eyes than it would otherwise have been. 

From the masses of his own people he was separated by the range 
and distinction of his contacts, by his taste for elegance, order and 
sophistication in daily life, and by the broad scope of his cultural 
experience, extending from Jewish folk tradition across European 
humanism into the atmosphere and discipline of scientific method. 
But in style and spirit he was not remote from them. They admired 
his level-headed, balanced attitude towards his own personal emi- 
nence. They knew that he was gripped by a single theme and that his 
life was commanded exclusively by their own central interests. He 
refused to dissipate his versatile attainments in varied and scattered 
fields. The strands of his multiple interests were woven together in a 
single texture. Felix Frankfurter 1 has remarked on Weizmann's 
quality of single-mindedness : 

1 Harlan B. Phillips, Felix Frankfurter Reminisces (New York, 1960), p. 184. 



1939-1949 

He was implacable in the pursuit of his object implacable. 
Nothing else interested him except the realization of a Jewish 
Palestine, but he had the kind of insight, understanding and imagi- 
nation that made him realize that a lot of other things were rele- 
vant to that He didn't care what else happened. He wouldn't 

read the newspapers about anything else except in so far as his 
instinct told him that this, somehow or other, was related to 
Palestine. 

For this total consecration to their purposes his followers rewarded 
him with an awed respect. He was deeply rooted in their memories 
and origins. To foreign chanceries he might come as a skilled diplo- 
mat. To the Jewish masses he was the gifted son of a timber mer- 
chant in Pinsk. His language, voice and mannerisms never ceased to 
convey the rich and solid culture of the Jewish pale. Unlike Herzl, 
Nordau and Brandeis, he had not come back to 'discover' the Jewish 
people in his later years. There was nothing external about him. He 
sprang from the womb of Jewish life. There had been no gaps or 
interruptions in his career of total Jewish identity. And so his people 
surrounded him with reverence, affection, loyalty and simultane- 
ously, as was their custom, harried him at critical times with un- 
believable torments of criticism and doubt. Sometimes they would 
reject him formally, only to fall at once into a passion of repentance 
and move heaven and earth for his restoration to their midst. Even 
when he was removed from office Jewish communities refused to 
recognize anyone else as the paramount envoy of Zionism. 

There was no doubt in their minds, or in his, that destiny had 
linked them together in tireless pursuit of Jewish redemption, and 
that it was his lifelong vocation to be the spokesman and commander 
of their highest cause. 

On his road from Geneva to London he had seen Paris plunged in 
gloom. Something was already visible of the disorganized apathy 
which augured the doom of France. 

In London he set up his command post at his apartment in the 
Dorchester Hotel and in his office at 77 Great Russell Street across 
the road from the British Museum. This celebrated office was re- 
markable for its dinginess, discomfort and lack of hygienic provision 
but in these respects it did not differ greatly from one of the more 
aristocratic ministries in Whitehall. 

It was a time for long-term plans, not for sudden victories. In 1914 
the slate was clean. Now it had been disfigured by the ugly scribblings 
of the White Paper. This betrayal had been simultaneous with the 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 253 

Munich settlement and congruous with it in all respects. Indeed, the 
day after Munich, Jan Masaryk had come to Weizmann's home, after 
pacing London's streets in a mood of cosmic despair, to predict a 
whole new series of Munichs. Small peoples were going to be sacri- 
ficed one by one in burnt offering to appease the violent tyrannies 
which were then the favourites of historic fortune. 

The future of Palestine was not the major concern of the British 
people as it went about collecting its gas-masks, recruiting its expedi- 
tionary force, evacuating its children from the cities, and casting an 
anxious eye on its sprawling, vulnerable expanse of empire. Weiz- 
mann surveyed the field and defined the first objective. There was 
clearly no chance for a new and favourable definition of the final 
political solution. His aim was to put the White Paper into refrigera- 
tion and create conditions in which it would appear after the victory 
as a grotesque and unseemly anachronism. The first goal was to get 
the Jewish people represented in its own identity amongst the armed 
forces to be mobilized for Hitler's defeat. Behind the flag consecrated 
in battle the Jewish people would rally after victory to claim its 
national rights. 

On 29 August, Weizmann addressed the Prime Minister Mr Neville 
Chamberlain in solemn terms : 

In this hour of supreme crisis, the consciousness that the Jews 
have a contribution to make to the defence of sacred values impels 
me to write this letter. I wish to confirm, in the most explicit 
manner, the declarations which I and my colleagues have made 
during the last months, and especially in the last week: that the 
Jews stand by Great Britain and will fight on the side of the 
Democracies. 

Our desire is to give effect to these declarations The Jewish 

Agency is ready to enter into immediate arrangements for utilizing 
Jewish man-power, technical ability, resources, etc. 

The Jewish Agency has recently had differences in the political 
field with the Mandatory Power. We would like these differences 
to give way before greater and more pressing necessities of the 
time. 

On 5 September he requested a meeting on this theme with Leslie 
Hore-Belisha, the Secretary of State for War. On the following day 
he went to see the French Ambassador M. Corbin to offer the re- 
cruitment of a Jewish Legion in France. Within the next few weeks 
he laid down a dense bombardment. Between September and Decem- 
ber those who heard him expound his cause included Winston Chur- 
chill Leopold Amery, Malcolm Macdonald, Lord Halifax, Robert 



254 * 939-1 949 

Vansittart, Walter Elliot, Oliver Harvey, Archibald Sinclair, Lord 
Chatfield; the Labour leaders, Attlee, Bevin, Greenwood and 
Williams; Walter Monckton, R. A. Butler and the Duke of Devon- 
shire and every editor or politician who came within his grasp. 

It was like 1917 again. His energy cascaded everywhere. His health 
was resilient rather than robust, but it was sensitively attuned to his 
mood and spirit. The pace was urgent. From the continent came 
fearful news of the 'solution' which Hitler was preparing for the 
Jews of occupied countries. The Jewish Army was a moral necessity 
for Jewish history as well as the credentials of future nationhood. He 
knew that political persuasion was a long patient task. In the negoti- 
ations for the Balfour Declaration he had conducted two thousand 
conversations to create a climate in which the idea might burgeon 
and yield fruit. His gifts of persuasion flourished more in such quiet 
councils than in the storm of public debate. His method was to trace 
every thread which led to the formulation of policy and to impress 
upon it the tension of his own intellectual and moral force. He 
neglected nothing. He even met the Egyptian Ambassador on 
28 September to recall a conversation with the Prime Minister 
Mohammed Mahmoud Pasha a few years earlier and to arrange, at 
the Ambassador's suggestion, for further meetings at regular intervals. 

There was not only the danger of standing still. It was seriously pos- 
sible for his cause to fall backward. A group of Ministers, led by 
Malcolm Macdonald, was bent on pushing the anti-Zionist policy 
further by enacting legislation under the White Paper limiting Jewish 
land purchase to an insultingly small area of the country. Palestine 
would become the second country after Germany in which affiliation 
to the Jewish faith would be a disqualification for the ownership of 
the land. Macdonald was inflexible in his hostility. He refused Weiz- 
mann's petition for the rescue of 20,000 Jewish children from Poland, 
and his request for visas to be granted to 169 Zionist leaders who 
had received permits to enter Palestine before the outbreak of war. 
Macdonald sanctimoniously told the Jewish Agency delegation that 
'he fully realized the tragic consequences of his refusal for those in- 
volved 5 . 

In October Weizmann had gone to Switzerland to seek intelli- 
gence on the plans of German scientists for the support of Hitler's 
war. He had interrogated leading refugee scientists and given his 
impression to Lord Halifax on October 23. The hostility of the 
Colonial Office was now offset by two developments which some 
Zionists called e the beginning of the thaw': Halifax agreed with 
Weizmann that it would be irresponsible to raise new frictions by 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 255 

enacting the White Paper land restrictions. c It was impossible to have 
these things cropping up now.' 

More substantively Weizmann had made a dent on the minds of 
military leaders. On 14 November the Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff, General Sir Edmund Ironside, had informed him of his resolve 
to release forty-three young Jews whom the Palestine Government 
had sentenced to long imprisonment for 'indulging' in military train- 
ing. * Fancy 5 the General said, 'They have condemned one of Win- 
gate's lads to life imprisonment: he ought to have been given the 
Distinguished Service Order/ When Weizmann said that Macdonald 
was obstructing the Jewish Army project the General replied: c Oh, I 
see. But the Jewish Army will come all the same. Besides, if it is to be 
a better world after the war, the Jews must get Palestine.' 

The better world was far away, and in the meantime the task was 
heavy. Weizmann now planned a visit to the United States. Britain 
was showing an apprehensive deference to American opinion. It 
seemed unlikely that the issues of the war would be resolved without 
the intervention of American power. As the fighting in Europe be- 
came bogged down in deadlock between the Maginot and Siegfried 
Lines, the apathetic neutralism of American opinion became a serious 
portent for the anti-Nazi cause. On the Palestine issue, too, the 
American scene was still dormant. The United States had not com- 
mitted itself to the White Paper. Indeed Roosevelt had criticized that 
document strongly in a note to Secretary of State Cordell Hull in 
May 1939. America remained the strongest of the factors not yet 
thrown into the balance on which the Jewish fate was poised. 

Moreover, Weizmann had begun to explore new directions in 
applied chemical research with a view to meeting the anticipated 
shortages in strategic materials. In Britain he was encountering resis- 
tance arising partly from bureaucratic habit and partly, perhaps, 
from the apprehension that Weizmann's successes in chemistry often 
seemed to have consequences beyond the scientific field. 

He was weighed down by many anxieties. In October he had spent 
a day saying farewell to his younger son Michael an air-force officer 
reporting for air-combat duty. At Great Russell Street he had 
effective counsellors at many levels Locker, Lewis Namier, 
Blanche Dugdale, Brodetsky: but he had no real deputy. Moshe 
Sharett's arrival from Jerusalem now strengthened the political 
department and reinforced the vigour of its deliberations; but his 
absence from Palestine could not be envisaged for any great length 
of time. The administration of Sir Harold MacMichael was pressing 
for further implementation of the White Paper despite the adverse 



256 

judgment on its legal validity by the Council of the League of 
Nations on the eve of the war. Weizmann's talk with Ironside had 
given hope of success in the struggle for the Jewish Army. He could 
not stay in America for long if the momentum of his effort was not to 
run down. 

There was little direct news of the fate befalling European Jewry. 
But Weizmann's prognosis was grim. In a letter to Sharett which 
reached Jerusalem early in October he had written: 

About half of the Jewish population of the world finds itself under 
the sway of Hitler and Stalin. ... I have tried to get some idea 
about the state of the Jewish population in Poland and the extent 
of the catastrophe which has befallen them The American Am- 
bassador here can get no information. Our friends in the United 

States neither One stands appalled before the dimensions of 

the disaster which is unfortunately in inverse proportion to our 
power of sending any assistance. 

He placed strong hope in Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, 
who was straining at Chamberlain's leash, scarcely concealing his 
impatience with the sluggish policies by which the Government 
'prosecuted 5 the war. Churchill had deputed Brendan Bracken to 
maintain close contact with the Zionist leaders on his behalf. And 
on 17 December Weizmann had a clear-cut conversation with him. 

The prospect of Churchill's intervention was to accompany Weiz- 
mann through many days of doubt and torment in the ensuing years. 
As a veteran War Minister clearly marked even then for the highest 
office, Churchill must have known the weight that Weizmann would 
attach to his words and attitudes. And on that December morning he 
began to engage himself in a series of friendly expressions which grew 
progressively in intensity and force across the years of war. 

Weizmann's note on the 17 December conversation was dictated 
for dispatch to Jerusalem a few hours before his departure for New 
York. 

Mr Churchill was very cordial, and deeply interested in Dr 
Weizmann's forthcoming visit to America. He made optimistic 
observations on the progress of the war. 

Dr Weizmann thanked Mr Churchill for his unceasing interest 
in Zionist affairs. He said: 'You stood at the cradle of this enter- 
prise; I hope that you will see it through.' Mr Churchill asked 
what Dr Weizmann meant by 'seeing it through'. Dr Weizmann 
replied that after the war the Zionists would wish to have a state 
of some three or four million Jews in Palestine. Mr Churchill said: 
* Yes, indeed, I quite agree with that.' 




1 7 Visiting 'illegal' immigrants at the detention camp, Athlit, near 
Haifa with Weisgal, 1945 




1 8 Before the Holocaust, sist Zionist Congress, Geneva. (Seated left to right) 
\/rv** Sharif TWirl Ren-Ourion. Weizmann, Eliezer Kaplan 




19 Speaking at the laying of the corner stone of the Weizmann Institute 
of Science, Rehovoth, 1946 



remained for ten weeks. He was warmly received by American Jewry, 
but there was no general framework of American policy within which 
the Jewish effort could exert its special tension. On 8 February he 
had his first meeting with President Roosevelt who was friendly in 
tone but vague in substance. Roosevelt acknowledged Palestine's role 
in receiving refugees from Hitler's Europe, but took Weizmann aback 
by asking whether other countries 'such as Colombia' might not 
absorb refugees. The Zionist leader patiently explained the distinc- 
tion between temporary refuge and permanent settlement. He con- 
fessed his fear that the end of the war would find European Jewry 
shattered; but there would be two or three million left outside the 
Soviet system and it would be possible and urgent to bring a million 
of these to Palestine at once. He told Roosevelt that the logic of the 
Peel Report advocating a Jewish State in Palestine offered the prin- 
ciple and kernel of the solution. 

How far the British Government still remained from this principle 
was now illustrated by the decision to enact the land restrictions in 
February. The British Ambassador in Washington, Lord Lothian, 
tried to allay Weizmann's wrath with a detailed letter expressing the 
* earnest hope and belief that these facts and arguments will give you 
an insight into the motives that have impelled his Majesty's Govern- 
ment to make their present decision'. 

Equipped with an all too precise insight into 'His Majesty's Govern- 
ment's motives', Weizmann arrived back in London in March 1940 
and bitterly informed his colleagues that he would refuse to seek 
interviews with British Ministers. In April he went to Switzerland to 
see Professor Willstaeter about an invention which a German refugee 
chemist had laid before him for converting salt water into fresh. In 
early May he presided at a meeting with Ben-Gurion's participation 
to discuss whether a more active resistance to the White Paper should 
be pursued in Palestine. The difficulty now, as for a few years to 
come, lay in the agonizing duality of the British role. In the specific 
context of the Palestine problem Britain was the opponent of Jewish 
hopes. But in the world struggle she was the primary obstacle to a 
Hitler victory which would mean the strangulation and cremation of 
all Jews, including those of the National Home itself. How to oppose 
British policy during the war while simultaneously longing for her 
victory was a political dilemma more cruel than any other nation had 
to face. 

Across these deliberations now came the thunder of great events. 
Holland and Belgium were overrun, France brought to her knees, 

K 



258 

Chamberlain overthrown and Churchill, growling with leonine 
defiance, advanced towards the 'finest hour 5 . 

The composition of the new government revived Zionist hopes. But 
these did not go beyond the frontier of sober realism. In a memoran- 
dum drafted on 14 May Ben-Gurion acknowledged that 'three of the 
five members of the War Cabinet are friendly to us*, and that the 
new Colonial Secretary, Lord Lloyd, 'though a known pro- Arab is 
nevertheless an honest and sympathetic man 5 . On the other hand, he 
added c we should beware of over-optimism 5 . The difficulties in secur- 
ing the complete and formal reversal of the White Paper policy 'are 
practically insuperable'. In these conditions he urged concentration 
on short-term objectives 'the development of war industries, supply, 
and the immediate training of Jewish cadres for a Jewish division 5 . 
At the same time the Zionist movement should formulate its demand 
for a final solution in terms of 'the establishment of a Jewish State 
in Palestine 5 . 

Weizmann found these views congenial. The tensions within the 
Zionist leadership which had been ominous in April were now dis- 
pelled. On May 19 Weizmann and Ben-Gurion paid a call on Lord 
Lloyd. It was the former who in a moving tribute to Dutch Jewry said 
that 'the birthplace of Spinoza is in Nazi hands 5 . In a lashing assault 
of a kind to which British ministers were not accustomed to listen, 
Weizmann added that the British 'were now being punished for not 
having realized earlier that when Hitler fought against the Jews, his 
real objective was England 5 . 

London was now alive with a sense of peril. The concern of British 
statesmen was not with the security of Palestine but with the survival 
of Britain in her own islands. In a conversation with Weizmann in a 
taxicab late in May Mrs Dugdale conveyed a Cabinet Minister's 
opinion that invasion was possible and indeed imminent. She asked 
whether Weizmann would consider removing himself to America 'to 
preserve himself for the movement 5 . He heatedly dismissed the sug- 
gestion and flung himself into intense diplomacy on a broad front. If 
Britain, now exposed to greater danger than any yet confronting 
Palestine, was to be engaged in preoccupation with Zionism, all 
Weizmann's capacities of penetration would be sorely needed. His 
colleagues were now moved to wonder by the access which he 
achieved and the attention which he commanded beyond the intrinsic 
priority of his cause in British eyes. In a few weeks he had secured 
a directive from Churchill to Lord Lloyd to place no obstacle in the 
way of the Jewish war effort. Arms searches stopped and increased 
use was made of Jewish industrial production. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 359 

On 14 June when Italy had entered the war Weizmann pressed 
imperiously for an increased development of Palestine Jewry's 
military strength. In a letter to Lord Lloyd he wrote: 

We request that the Jews of Palestine be given the fullest oppor- 
tunity of organizing for Home Defence. Time presses. Things pos- 
sible today may become impossible tomorrow. Delay may mean 
the annihilation of the half-million Jews in Palestine, and the 
destruction of all our work. 

We ask His Majesty's Government, whatever they may decide 
about our offers of help, to allow the Jews of Palestine, under the 
direction of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Council, 
and under the control of the British Military Authorities, to 
organise as many military units as they can, and to train their 
men, as far as possible with the help of the British forces in the 
country. 

Action is required at once. Speed may make all the difference 
between life and death for us. Before victory is won, Jewish Pales- 
tine may be in supreme danger. If we have to go down, we are 
entitled to go down fighting, and the Mandatory Power is in duty 
bound to grant us this elementary human right. 

He had now secured an official place in the scientific war effort as an 
honorary chemical adviser to Herbert Morrison, the Minister of 
Supply. His aim was to develop the catalytic cracking of heavy oils 
to yield benzine and toluene. He carried out new investigations of 
various fermentation processes, including the production of isoprene, 
which later became important for the synthetic manufacture of 
rubber. At one time he found it difficult to tear himself away from 
the laboratory in favour of the thankless tasks awaiting him in Great 
Russell Street. 

Churchill and other Ministers were now pressing him to make 
another visit to the United States in order to stimulate Jewish and 
general opinion in favour of the anti-Nazi cause, for whose defence 
Britain now stood alone in the field. The Zionist leader insisted on a 
definite commitment in favour of a Jewish Army. Patience was run- 
ning out; indeed that of Ben-Gurion was exhausted, and he exploded 
into scepticism and dissent. 

At last, early in September, the break-through seemed to come. At 
a luncheon with Churchill, Weizmann received the Prime Minister's 
formal approval for the establishment of a Jewish fighting force. 

On Friday 13 September 1941, a meeting took place at the War 
Office with Mr Eden, Secretary for War, presiding, and Lord Lloyd 
and a Foreign Office representative in attendance. Mr Eden com- 



260 * 939-* 949 

municated to Weizmann officially that 'the Government had decided 
to proceed with the organization of a Jewish Army, on the same basis 
as the Czech and Polish Army. Its size, to begin with, would be 10,000 
including 4,000 from Palestine. They would be trained and organized 
in England and then dispatched to the Middle East.' 

Mrs Dugdale wrote in her diary: 'The Walls of Jericho have 
fallen, fallen. I looked in at the Dorchester at about 5 pm and found 
Chaim just back from the interview elated and solemn. He said, " It 
is almost as great a day as the Balfour Declaration." Orde Wingate 
was also there, radiant.' 

In the following months this achievement was to be corroded by 
delays and evasions. Four long years were to pass before a Jewish 
Brigade group came into existence. But the break-through of 1941, 
at the time of its occurrence, was a significant reassertion of Weiz- 
mann's skill and power. He had contrived to win a decision which 
went against all the prevailing winds of British policy. His confidence 
in his ability to change the current of events was restored at a 
moment when his spirits were perilously low. The criticism of some 
of his colleagues was provisionally silenced. He felt himself to be re- 
gaining command of events. Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, 
tells in his memoirs, of encountering Weizmann during a violent air- 
raid on London sitting in a shelter serenely reading the Hebrew 
Bible. On one occasion a light-hearted feeling impelled him to dis- 
card his car and take a ride on top of a London bus to the astonish- 
ment of some Zionists on the way to Golders Green who thought that 
they were afflicted with hallucinations. 

News now reached Weizmann of a Cabinet meeting on 2 October 
at which Churchill had repudiated the White Paper and affirmed 
that 'the Jews must have territory'. Two weeks later he was informed 
that the War Cabinet had formally ratified the Jewish Army project. 
In February 1941 he was put into contact with a senior officer, 
General Hawes, who had been appointed to command the Jewish 
Division. 

All Zionist victories have been followed by the swift repentance of 
those who had conceded them. The Balfour Declaration might well 
have been shelved if it had come to a decision a month later than 
November 1917. In 1947 the retreat from the United Nations parti- 
tion resolution was to begin on the morrow of its adoption. Weiz- 
mann's victory on the Jewish Army was now to be shattered by a 
resolute counter-attack from the pro-Arab school of British diplo- 
macy. On 14 February the new Colonial Secretary Lord Moyne 
wrote to Weizmann refusing his impassioned appeal for a 'substan- 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 261 

tial allocation of immigration certificates to be issued immediately 
to Rumanian Jews'. 'Rumania', wrote Lord Moyne blandly, *is 
regarded as enemy occupied territory. The machinery for verification 
of the bona fides of applicants . . . has disappeared.' His Lordship 
added with massive understatement, 4 1 feel sure that this reply will 
come as a disappointment to you.' 

An interview with the Colonial Secretary on 22 February had no 
effect. A week later a further blow descended: a letter from Lord 
Moyne to Dr Weizmann dated 4 March 1941 : 

I am very sorry to have to tell you that the raising of the Jewish 
contingent has to be postponed. As you know I was anxiously con- 
sidering certain details with a view to removal of minor diffi- 
culties, but the matter has now been shifted on to quite other 
ground, and the Prime Minister has decided that owing to lack of 
equipment the project must for the present be put off for six 

months, but may be reconsidered again in four months I can 

assure you that this postponement is in no sense a reversal of the 
previous decision in favour of your proposal. 

Lord Moyne tried verbally to reassure him that nothing more than 
a technical postponement was involved; and on the eve of Weiz- 
mann's departure for the United States, Churchill engaged him in a 
conversation at 10 Downing Street where he had gone to say farewell 
to Brendan Bracken. The Prime Minister said: C I am thinking of a 
settlement between you and the Arabs after the war. The man with 
whom you should make the agreement is Ibn Saud. He will be the 
lord of the Arab countries. But he will have to agree with you with 
regard to Palestine. Times are terrible for all of us and for you they 
are doubly terrible. I will see you through.' 

Weizmann wrote this conversation down, put it in an envelope and 
sent it from the airport near Bournemouth to a friend in the country 
for safe keeping in case anything happens to me'. Air crashes were 
frequent on the Atlantic route in those days. But he reached his des- 
tination and plunged into a vigorous tour of communities in the mid- 
west and California. On 25 May he assembled the American Jewish 
leaders and summoned them to the assumption of leadership in 
Jewish rescue. His discourse was of prophetic intensity: 'Victory will 
come and the Jewish problem will be brought before the great 
tribunal which will sit and carve out the new world after this terrible 

war. I believe in the eternity of Israel If that is religion, then I 

am religious. It was my lodestar all my life and it is now on this 
terrible morning.' He concluded with frank advocacy of partition and 



262 i939- I 949 

a request to call American Zionists to a conference for the purpose 
of enunciating Zionist post-war aims. 'There is an Arab nuisance 
value,* he concluded cryptically 'Let us create a Jewish nuisance 
value.' 

Fortified by public support in America he returned to London and 
indignantly charged Churchill with his responsibility for delaying the 
Jewish Army project. 'Are the Jews so utterly unimportant ', he wrote 
to the Prime Minister in September 1941, 'as the treatment meted 
out to them suggests? Let me feel, Mr Prime Minister, that our 
friendship is not spurned nor our name obliterated at a time when 
Hitler is endeavouring to obliterate our very existence.' In an article 
in * Foreign Affairs' published in October he asserted his formula for 
the solution; 'It is for the democracies to proclaim the justice of the 
Jewish claim to their own Commonwealth in Palestine. 3 

Lord Moyne had told him that the Jewish Division was only post- 
poned. Now he delivered a harder blow. On 23 October he informed 
Weizmann and Ben-Gurion that 'since the Government had to give 
every aid to Russia it would not be possible to form a Jewish Division 
... in view of the shipping accommodation which would be involved 5 . 

'When troubles come they come not single spie but in battalions.* 
The patient labours of two dark years were in collapse. To public 
disappointment was now added the crushing burden of private grief. 
On 10 February 1942, the eve of his departure for America on a 
scientific mission requested by the United States Government, he had 
a telephone conversation with his son Michael. 'He sounded quite 
disconsolate,' wrote Weizmann later in his memoirs, 'but I tried to 
cheer him up. I got in reply a sad laugh. It still rings in my ears.' 
The next day found him and Mrs Weizmann in Bristol about to take 
off for the Atlantic flight. They were informed by telephone that 
Michael was missing after his squadron had carried out anti-sub- 
marine duties in the North Sea and English Channel. Stunned with 
grief, he and Mrs Weizmann returned to London. 

Zionism had been his relentless master for fifty years. It had stirred 
his youth, commanded his manhood and weighed down his aging 
years. It had taken voracious toll of his energies and left him scant 
time for the elementary private joys. His son, so often separated from 
him in childhood, had now fallen in the service of allied armies 
amongst whom no Jewish flag yet flew. His life had been touched 
with great issues, exalted by responsibilities and monopolised by 
duty. It was now illuminated by the cold light of sacrifice. The 
friends who gathered about him in London during that grief -laden 
February brought him tidings of unrelieved gloom. Singapore sur- 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 263 

rendered. The Struma with a cargo of 700 Jewish refugees was refused 
admission to Palestine and blew up with the loss of all its passengers 
but one in the Mediterranean. 

For some weeks Ghaim and Vera Weizmann were paralysed by the 
weight of their sorrows. But a week after the news that Michael was 
missing Weizmann was at the Colonial Office to excoriate Lord 
Cranbourne for the Struma affair and warn him that broken British 
promises would not cancel the divine promise to Israel. 'Palestine', 
he said, 'will never again become an Arab country. The present 
policy merely creates a running sore. What is being done in Palestine 
is in flagrant contradiction to what is being said about a better world 
after the war.' Cranbourne, more sympathetic than Moyne, worked 
out a compromise whereby Jewish illegal immigrants who reached 
Haifa would, if detained, at least be held in Palestine and not turned 
away. But there was no movement on any other central issue. 

On 2 March Weizmann attempted to break through the wall of 
Soviet hostility in a letter to the Soviet Government through Am- 
bassador Maisky. Beginning with a stoical reference to his own 
personal disaster he emphasized the collective ethic at the root of the 
Zionist movement: 

Collective welfare and not individual gain is the guiding prin- 
ciple and goal of the economic structure. Equality of standing is 
established in the community between manual and intellectual 
workers; and consequently the fullest scope is provided for the 
intellectual life and development of labour. 

The vast majority of adherents of Zionism have close personal 
and family relations with the USSR, and a peculiar interest in, 
and special sympathy with, its people 

May I express my firm hope and belief that the Soviet arms, 
which have already achieved such brilliant results, will succeed in 
freeing their country from the enemy, and will thus contribute to 
lifting the pall of darkness now hanging over a distracted world, 
and that the forces of progress and freedom will then unite in 
order to undertake the work of reconstruction which will lie before 
them. I have no doubt that the Soviet Government and people 
will show sympathy and understanding for the vexed Jewish 
problem which has weighed on us and on Europe for so many 
decades. 

I would like to thank you personally for your kindness in re- 
ceiving me, and in listening to our views. 

In late March Weizmann reassembled his vitality, packed his bags, 
and took once more to the road the envoy of a people, implacable 



264 i 9 39-i 949 

and tenacious in duty. In April he again landed in the United 
States. 

The American Ambassador in London, Joseph Winant, had urged 
him to concentrate seriously on his chemical work. Even here he met 
frustration. His contribution to the rubber shortage was obstructed 
by vested interests in the oil industry. Later the Vice-President of the 
United States, Henry A. Wallace, was to declare: 'The world will 
never know what a significant contribution Weizmann made towards 
the success of the synthetic-rubber programme at a time when it was 
badly bogged down and going too slowly. 3 When his production pro- 
cess was fully perfected he handed it over to a Philadelphia firm, and 
resumed the thread of his Zionist labours. 

He was now in his sixty-ninth year and ill-health began to pursue 
him with growing frequency. But he made an effective appearance at 
the Biltmore Conference in May 1942, at which American Zionists 
united in support of a platform calling for a Jewish Commonwealth 
in Palestine. He was now under criticism by many leaders of Pales- 
tinian and American Jewry. In stormy sessions in New York Ben- 
Gurion criticized his tendency to conduct the Presidency with 
complete exclusiveness of decision. Ben-Gurion argued for a more col- 
lective and broadly diffused concept of political leadership in which 
the man of chief responsibility would not act or decide alone. 

In an address to die American Zionists on 2 December, Weizmann 
reaffirmed 'his full agreement with the Biltmore Programme'. If he 
made little fuss about it it was because he saw no difference between 
its text and that of his article in 'Foreign Affairs' the year before. He 
may have underestimated the effect of Ben-Gurion's achievement in 
confirming these ideas as a banner and platform of Zionist action. 
Noting that at least two million Jews had perished under the Nazi 
terror he observed bitterly to his Zionist colleagues that it had not 
been possible to get this hideous fact published in the American press. 
He felt that the work in Washington was not sufficiently sustained. No 
permanent Zionist office existed there in constant touch with the State 
Department. He called for a reinvigoration of Zionist purpose in 
support of the Biltmore Programme and concluded 'Miracles can 
happen if you work hard enough for them.* 

During the first part of 1943 the prospect of allied victory brightened. 
Palestine was now safe from invasion and the urgent business was to 
create a favourable climate for the post-war settlement. It was clear 
that the United States would play a decisive r61e, but the vehement 
support which the Jewish cause enjoyed in the public and in Capitol 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 265 

Hill, was not reflected in the Department of State. Weizmann now 
engaged the leading American diplomats, including Sumner Welles 
and heads of the Near East Division, in a concentrated and patient 
seminar on the Jewish problem and its solution. Sharett and Gold- 
mann joined him as powerful reinforcements. Departmental chiefs 
now added to their diplomatic experience by experiencing the sting 
of Weizmann's swift retorts. One of them expressed the view that 
the publicity of Congressional resolutions and statements injured the 
Zionist cause by exciting Arab hostility. Dr Weizmann replied that 
'what mattered to Arab politicians was the fact of Jewish aspiration, 
and not the amount of publicity that they received'. The State De- 
partment official noted that not all American Jews were united in 
support of Zionist aims. Dr Weizmann: c Why is it that in all demo- 
cratic countries a majority decision is deemed adequate whereas from 
Jews one expects unanimity? 5 

These conversations marked an early stage in a long and unfinished 
dialogue between the Jewish nation and the State Department. In 
their support Weizmann enlisted powerful auxiliary forces. Henry 
Wallace, the Vice President, Henry Morgenthau, the Secretary of the 
Treasury, Judge Samuel Rosenman, Robert Nathan, Isidore Lubin 
and Ben Cohen formed a Washington group of informal but percep- 
tive counsellors. At a little distance off-stage, as judicial propriety 
directed, Felix Frankfurter surrounded him with affection and epi- 
grammatic advice. 

The of&cial American Zionists were more at home in Congress and 
in the press than in direct dealing with the State Department. With 
them too Weizmann cemented his contacts, establishing a political 
committee in New York to which he brought frequent and lucid 
reports. He tried hard to break the public silence on the Jewish holo- 
caust in Europe. On i March he took the floor at Madison Square 
Garden to deliver an impressive cry of anguish. 

When the historian of the future assembles the black record of 
our days, he will find two things unbelievable: first, the crime 
itself; second the reaction of the world to that crime. He will sift 
the evidence again and again before he will be able to give 
credence to the fact that, in the twentieth century of the Christian 
era, a great and cultivated nation put power into a band of 
assassins who transformed murder from a secret transgression into 
a publicly avowed government policy to be carried out with all 
the paraphernalia of State. He will find the monstrous story of the 
human slaughterhouses, the lethal chambers, the sealed trains, 
taxing the powers of belief. 



266 i939~ I 949 

But when that historian, overwhelmed by the tragic evidence, 
sets down the verdict of the future upon this savage phenomenon, 
unique in the annals of mankind, he will be troubled by still 
another circumstance. He will be puzzled by the apathy of the 
civilized world In the face of this immense, systematic carnage of 
human beings whose sole guilt was membership in the people 
which gave the commandments of the moral law to mankind. He 
will not be able to understand why the conscience of the world 
had to be prodded, why sympathies had to be stirred* Above all, 
he will not be able to understand why the free nations, in arms 
against a resurgent, organized barbarism, required appeals to give 
sanctuary to the first and chief victim of that barbarism. 

Two million Jews have already been exterminated. The world 
can no longer plead that the ghastly facts are unknown or uncon- 
firmed. At this moment, expressions of sympathy, without 

accompanying attempts to launch acts of rescue, become a hollow 
mockery in the ears of the dying. 

The democracies have a clear duty before them. Let them nego- 
tiate with Germany through the neutral countries concerning the 
possible release of the Jews in the occupied countries. Let havens 
be designated in the vast territories of the United Nations which 
will give sanctuary to those fleeing from imminent murder. Let 
the gates of Palestine be opened to all who can reach the shores 
of the Jewish homeland. The Jewish community of Palestine 
will welcome with joy and thanksgiving all delivered from Nazi 
hands. 

On 7 May he saw Lord Halifax, now the British Ambassador in 
Washington, and reminded him that a deadline was approaching. 
The White Paper required that there should be no further Jewish 
immigration into Palestine at all after March 1944. 'Now, Lord 
Halifax, do you think you can really maintain that position? Some- 
how or other you have allowed everybody to get away with the idea 
that if one additional Jew enters Palestine there will be a revolution. 
For all I know there will be. But the Jews have nothing to lose. If you 
allow the position to drift it will lead to disaster. 9 

He carried the same warning to President Roosevelt on June 12. 
The President was full of smiling but non-committal charm. He pro- 
posed a Jewish-Arab conference with the possible participation of 
Mr Churchill and himself. 'Did you see Churchill here in Washing- 
ton?' he asked. Dr Weizmann replied: 'No. Mr Churchill doesn't 
like to see me because he has very little to tell me. 3 Roosevelt pre- 
dicted that it would now be different in London. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 267 

Weizmann had completed his sojourn in the United States the 
longest and most systematically planned of all his visits there. The 
harvest was not abundant, but he had strengthened the foundation of 
a sustained and ordered Zionist diplomacy in the United States. On 
the eve of departure he wrote to Stephen Wise in irritation about the 
constant 'heckling and badgering' of his efforts by some Zionist 
colleagues in other lands. One passage in this letter tells the full 
story of his attitude on the vexed question of militance and modera- 
tion: 

A dangerous tendency seems to be developing in our councils. 
Many Zionists in responsible positions seem to think that a mere 
affirmation of our aims constitutes an action towards the achieve- 
ment of our objective I hope you will forgive me for saying 

this: it is obviously nothing but demagogy continuously to play 
the role of the maximalist in the confines of a small room and con- 
versely when meeting with Government, or even with non-Zionist 
Jews, to speak in whispering timidity. / have always preferred 
the reverse. 

The tide of war was now running strongly for the Allied cause. 
British and American troops swarmed out of conquered North Africa 
into Sicily and the Italian mainland. Weizmann returned to London 
and resumed his assault on Downing Street. In the summer he 
mourned two gallant friends, Victor Cazalet, a Conservative Member 
of Parliament, killed in an air crash and the veteran Labour states- 
man Josiah Wedgwood, a tenacious champion of Zionism in the 
British Parliament for thirty years. On 25 October he lunched with 
Churchill at Downing Street together with the Deputy Premier, 
Clement Attlee and Air Marshal Lord Portal. When the ladies retired 
the Premier presented Weizmann affectionately to the other guests 
and plunged into words of firm commitment about the Jewish 
future. 'When we have crushed Hitler,' he said with sonorous em- 
phasis, 6 we shall have to establish the Jews in the position where they 
belong. I have had an inheritance left to me by Balfour and I am not 
going to change. But there are dark forces working against us. Dr 
Weizmann, you have some very good friends; for instance, Mr Attlee 
and the Labour Party are committed on this matter.' Mr Attlee said, 
'I certainly am.' C I know the terrible situation of the Jews/ said 
Churchill. 'They will get compensation and will also be able to judge 
the criminals. God deals with the nations as they deal with the Jews. 
Of every fifty officers who come back from the Middle East only one 
speaks favourably of the Jews. That merely convinces me that I am 
right.' 



268 i939~ I 949 

Weizmann drove back to his hotel in a daze of crowded thought. 
The words that he had heard from Churchill in the hearing of his 
probable successor came from the great war leader at the height of 
his fame and power. Only a week ago Weizmann had spoken with 
his old friend General Smuts after a separation of eleven years. 
He had poured out a bitter tale of resentment against British policy. 
4 1 have co-operated with them for twenty-five years and now every- 
thing is being done to drive me into opposition to them. 9 *Dr Weiz- 
mann/ said the General, y u have changed a great deal in the years 
since we last met. Do the Jews still follow you? 5 Weizmann replied 
that the Diaspora Jews still did. c So far as Palestine was concerned it 
is some years since I have been with them and they might regard me 
as coming empty handed. But I think that they will still follow me.' 

'There are all sorts of rumours flying about concerning partition/ 
he wrote to Meyer Weisgal at the end of 1943. -^ e entreated his col- 
leagues in Jerusalem to believe that an earnest debate on partition was 
now in full momentum in the highest reaches of British policy. 
Indeed these discussions were far more concrete and positive than 
any proceeding at that time in the United States where other Zionist 
leaders believed the centre of gravity to be. Weizmann was met by 
sceptical reactions and accusations of wishful thinking. Years later 
the published documents revealed who was right. 

Prime Minister to General Ismay, for Chief of Staffs Committee 

January 1944 

I have now read the paper about British strategic needs in the 
Levant States. The Chiefs of Staff seem to assume that partition 
will arouse Jewish resentment. It is, on the contrary, the White 
Paper policy that arouses the Jewish resentment. The opposition 
to partition will come from the Arabs, and any violence by the 
Arabs will be countered by the Jews. It must be remembered that 
Lord Wavell has stated that left to themselves the Jews would beat 
the Arabs. There cannot, therefore, be any great danger in our 
joining with the Jews to enforce the kind of proposals about par- 
tition which are set forth in the Ministerial paper. . . . Obviously 
we shall not proceed with any plan of partition which the Jews do 
not support. 

The very existence of such trains of thought demanded efforts to 
establish the Jewish flag amongst the banners of the victorious alli- 
ance. During the period of danger, when Rommel's forces stood at 
the gates of Alexandria, a remarkable episode of British- Jewish 
co-operation had formed an island of harmony in the general discord. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 269 

Groups of hundreds of Jews, the forerunners of the Palmach, the 
Israel Army's ^triking force, had been trained by the British Depart- 
ment of Special Operations, to offer underground resistance to the 
German occupation force if the Nazis should succeed in overrunning 
Palestine. The country had been mapped out into zones of guerrilla 
operations from which the commandos would set out to disrupt com- 
munications, eliminate Nazi leaders and Generals and sell their lives 
dearly. A camp had been established at Mishmar Haemek at which 
British officers were training young Jewish fighters in the varied arts 
of sabotage. They were later to put these skills to good use in a 
context for which most of their instructors had not bargained. 

By the beginning of 1944 it was plain that these hundreds of 
trained commandos would not be called upon to fight on Palestine 
soil in revolt against German occupation. The Jewish Agency, in a 
letter from Moshe Sharett to the British Minister Resident in Cairo, 
Lord Moyne, submitted a proposal for the parachuting of trained 
Palestinian commandos into Bulgaria, Roumania, Hungary and 
Slovakia for the purpose of organizing Jewish resistance movements 
against the Nazi occupation forces. This offer was hesitantly accepted 
in the most minimal dimensions. Nevertheless, Palestinian Jews, in- 
cluding the martyred Hanah Senesh, performed acts of heroism in 
which they often gave up their lives. 

While the offer of commando participation was under considera- 
tion, the attempt to organize a regular Jewish fighting force was 
renewed in a determined diplomatic movement led by Weizmann in 
London and Sharett in Jerusalem and Cairo. On 28 March 1944, 
Weizmann addressed the War Minister, Sir James Grigg, with a *plea 
for the formation of a Jewish Fighting Force within the British Army 

to take part in the liberation of Europe' .On 4 July he wrote to 

Churchill even more urgently in the same sense. 

It required some resilience and optimism to renew this request 
after the high hopes and subsequent frustrations of 1940-42. But 
Roosevelt had not been wrong in predicting that Weizmann would 
now find a new spirit in London. 

Prime Minister to Dr Weizmann 

5 August 1944 

I am sorry to find that I have not yet replied to your letter of 
4 July about the question of the Jewish Fighting Force. I can 
assure you, however, that I have given my personal attention to 
your suggestions, with which, as you know, I myself have much 
sympathy. They have been under active consideration during the 
last few weeks, and the War Office will shortly be in a position to 



discuss concrete proposals with the Jewish Agency. I hope it may 
be found possible to reach agreement on a scheme that will be 
satisfactory to all concerned. 

About the flag. I should like to know what it looks like before 
I embark on this contentious ground. 

Dr Weizmann to Prime Minister 

5 August 1944 

Your letter of August 5th in reply to mine about the Jewish 
Fighting Force has given me great encouragement, and I thank 
you for it most warmly. In the first place, it is a renewed assur- 
ance of your personal sympathy with the desire of the Jews to 
fight the Nazis under their own name and flag. . . . 

The moment that the War Office is in a position to discuss con- 
crete proposals, I and my colleagues will be more than ready. In 
the meantime, I have the greatest pleasure in sending you a sketch 
of the proposed flag two horizontal blue stripes on a white back- 
ground, with the Star of David in the centre. It is known to Jews 
all over the world as their national symbol. You helped us to raise 
it in Palestine a quarter of a century ago ; its meaning has grown 
with our growth. 

These exchanges leave no doubt concerning the r61e of Weizmann's 
influence and prestige in the approval secured in 1944 for the for- 
mation of the Jewish Brigade Group. The publication of Churchill's 
papers in 1953 makes this point even more plain, and provides the 
background for the 5 August letter. 

Prime Minister to Secretary of State for War 

12 July 1944 

I am anxious to reply promptly to Dr Weizmann's request for 
the formation of a Jewish fighting force put forward in his letter 
of July 4 of which you have been given a copy. I understand that 
you wish to have the views of General Wilson and Paget before 
submitting to the Cabinet a scheme for the formation of a Jewish 
Brigade Force. As this matter has now been under consideration 
for some time I should be glad if you would arrange for a report 
setting out your proposals to be submitted to the Cabinet early 
next week. 

Prime Minister to the Secretary of State for War 

12 July 1944 

I am in general agreement with your proposals (for a Jewish 
fighting force) but I think the brigade should be formed and sent 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 271 

to Italy as soon as convenient, and worked up to a Brigade Group 
there as time goes on by the attachment of other units. 

I like the idea of the Jews trying to get at the murderers of 
their fellow countrymen in Central Europe, and I think it would 
give a great deal of satisfaction in the United States. 

The points of detail which occur to me are: 

I believe it is the wish of the Jews themselves to fight the 
Germans anywhere. It is with the Germans that they have their 
quarrel. There is no need to put the conditions in such a form as 
to imply that the War office in its infinite wisdom might wish to 
send the Jews to fight the Japanese and that otherwise there 
would be no use in having the Brigade Group 

I will consult the King about this proposal (that the force 
should have its own flag). I cannot conceive why this martyred 
race scattered about the world and suffering as no other race has 
done at this juncture should be denied the satisfaction of having 
a flag. However, not only the King but the Cabinet might have 
views on this. 

Please go ahead and negotiate with the Jewish Agency. Re- 
member the object of this is to give pleasure and an expression to 
rightful sentiments and that it certainly will be welcomed widely 
in the United States 

It might have been expected that Weizmann's mood would now be 
more buoyant than during his melancholy conversation with Smuts 
in July. The faith that he had reposed in Churchill was now being 
vindicated in eloquent word and convincing deed. If the Prime 
Minister had, however belatedly, honoured his commitment in the 
matter of the Jewish Force why should he not do so in the case of 
partition? One could hear the crunch of thawing ice. 

But from Europe there came a stream of news which quenched 
any spark of Jewish satisfaction. In June Weizmann had addressed 
a closed meeting of Jewish leaders on the Jewish holocaust. 

Germany, as you know, has occupied Hungary, and all the 
news reaching us suggests that the Nazis will deal with the Hun- 
garian Jews as they have already dealt with the Polish. Indeed, 
we hear that the first train-loads of Hungarian Jews have already 
left for Poland. On the other hand, the 'Second Front 3 has opened 
across the Channel. Knowing the minds of the Nazi leaders as 
bitter experience has taught us to do we know that the nearer 
they see their doom approaching, the more hastily they will strain 
every nerve to carry their anti- Jewish policy to full fruition. 



272 i939- I 949 

In July a Hungarian Jew, Joel Brand, reached Istanbul where he 
made contact with Jewish Agency emissaries. He brought a fantastic 
story. Eichmann, the Nazi officer charged with the extermination of 
the Jews, was now engaged in the liquidation of Hungarian Jewry. 
Much of the grisly work had already been accomplished, but hun- 
dreds of thousands of Jews still remained alive. Allied armies were 
converging on Germany and the doom of Nazism and its leaders was 
certain. Brand explained that Eichmann had told him, in the 
presence of Dr Kastner, the representative of the Jewish Rescue 
Committee, that if 10,000 trucks were made available to Himmler, 
the expulsion of Jews to the Auschwitz death camp would be stopped. 
Brand insisted that if he could return to Budapest with the reply 
that the offer was being seriously considered 'the mills of death 
would stop grinding'. Jewish representatives urged that despite all 
natural scepticism the macabre offer should be treated as genuine. 
There was an objective possibility that Himmler was seeking to 
curry favour with the advancing allies by belatedly saving Jewish 
lives. 

Weizmann, joined by Sharett in London, urged the Foreign Office 
to act on Brand's proposal. On 30 June Sharett cabled his colleagues 
in Jerusalem : 

Weizmann myself saw Foreign Under Secretary Hall stop We 
urged [. . .] Brand should be enabled to return immediately stop 
When asked whether we would prefer Brand's returning imme- 
diately or waiting till major decision has been reached we replied 
best course would be reach decision within next day or two and 
authorize Brand refer to it otherwise Brand should be sent without 
delay and instructed report that message been delivered is under 
consideration highest quarter early action will follow stop Hall 
stated matter is before War Cabinet our suggestion will be trans- 
mitted immediately decision will be reached soon in conjunction 
American Government 

On 6 July Weizmann and Sharett carried their plea to the Foreign 
Secretary Anthony Eden whom they found maddeningly hesitant. 
His main argument was that 'there must be no negotiation with the 
enemy'. Weizmann admitted that e the Gestapo offer must have 
ulterior motives. It is not impossible, however, that in the false hope 
of achieving their ends they would be prepared to let out a certain 
number of Jews, large or small. The whole thing may boil down to 
a question of money and the ransom should be paid.' 

On the following day Weizmann urged the Foreign Office to 
approach the Royal Air Force with the proposal to bomb the death 




so Weizmann in his laboratory with Weisgal and Dr Harold Davies 




21 An Honorary Degree from the Hebrew University, 1947 (left to 
right) Mrs Weizmann, Weizmann and Dr J, L. Magnes 




22 Weizraann reviews Druze volunteers in the Israel Army, 1948 




HP^HHHHWH&lf^HHiiHMMPMMMMH^^lB ( * PHHBBBBBBIfWH^^^BBl^BHHHHI 
23 Ben-Gurion, Weizmann and Yigal Yadin, Chief of Staff 




t .**<** 



24 Dr and Mrs Weismann on their way to the Provisional State Council 
of Israel in Tel Aviv, 1948 




;r the assembly of the Provisional State Council of Israel, with 
: to right) Joseph Sprinzak, Kaplan, Weisgal, Rabbi Maimon and 
Michael Simon 



camps at Auschwitz. He admitted that this measure might do no 
more than delay the extermination. But the bombing 'would have a 
far-reaching moral effect. It would mean that the allies waged direct 
war on the extermination of the victims of Nazi oppression'. * Sec- 
ondly ', he added in a parenthesis of terrible import, 'it would give 
the lie to the oft-repeated assertions of Nazi spokesmen that the Allies 
are not really so displeased with the action of the Nazis in ridding 
Europe of Jews.' 

The Foreign Office was living in the moral vacuum of which the 
White Paper was both a cause and an effect. Brand's mission was 
allowed to fizzle out despite Eden's assurance to Weizmann that 
there would be no objection to him going back. And on i September 
the Foreign Office informed Weizmann that his proposal for the 
bombing of the death camps had been rejected by the Royal Air 
Force 'for technical reasons'. Once more the British policy, in the 
test of administrative action, had been utterly incongruous with the 
declared attitude of its chief architect. 

Prime Minister [Churchill] to Foreign Secretary [Eden] 

ii July 1944 

There is no doubt that this [persecution of Jews in Hungary] is 
probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in 
the whole history of the world, and it has been done by scientific 
machinery by nominally civilized men in the name of a Great 
State and one of the leading races of Europe. It is quite clear that 
all concerned in this crime who may fall in to our hands, includ- 
ing the people who only obeyed orders by carrying out the 
butcheries, should be put to death after their association with the 
murders has been proved. 

The prospect of retribution was small consolation to Jewish leaders 
whose eyes were on rescue. Weizmann sank into a deep depression 
in the days following the rejection of his bid for an effort on behalf 
of Hungarian Jewry. Indeed on 20 July he had a seizure which was 
believed to be dangerous. 

The decision in favour of the Jewish Brigade Group had been pub- 
licly announced in September. Moreover, Weizmann's conversation 
with Churchill in October 1943 had set serious partitionist discus- 
sions afoot. Weizmann now prepared to make the visit to Palestine 
which had twice been postponed, first through his breakdown in 
health and then through the inability of Mrs Weizmann to make the 
journey. 



1939-1949 

On 3 November, he received an urgent summons from Churchill. 
On the following day the Prime Minister's car came to take him to 
Chequers. There he found the Premier's son Randolph Churchill, 
and his two secretaries Major Thompson and John Martin. 

The Prime Minister said that he would not be able to make any 
public statement until the end of the German war which, in his 
view, was from three to six months away. He was worried by lack of 
support for his Zionist views in the Conservative Party and by 
prominent Jews such as Bernard Baruch. c lf people of this kind start 
talking in the same way as the military do, it only hardens my heart, 
but still I would like to have as much support as I can.' 

Dr Weizmann showed Churchill a memorandum outlining the 
objections of the Jewish Agency to any partition plan which did not 
include the Negev. Churchill said bluntly that he was for the inclu- 
sion of the Negev. 'If you could get the whole of Palestine it would 
be a good thing,' he said, 'but I feel that if it comes to a choice 

between the White Paper and partition you should take partition 

America must give active support and not merely criticism. If 
Roosevelt and I meet at the Conference table we shall get what we 
want.' Churchill asked whether it was intended to bring in large 
numbers of Jews to Palestine. Weizmann replied that he had in 
mind about a million and a half in fifteen years e as a beginning'. He 
then spoke of the large number of children who would have to be 
brought to Palestine. Churchill replied that the governments would 
have to worry about that, and mentioned financial aid, Weizmann 
was still concerned by rumours of an inadequate and crippling par- 
tition and attempted vainly to get Churchill to study maps with him. 
Churchill revealed that he had a committee sitting on the Palestine 
problem. He said that Dr Weizmann should see Lord Moyne in 
Cairo. 'He has developed a lot in the last two years.' 

On 5 November the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley, sent a car 
to Weizmann's hotel inviting him urgently to Whitehall. He then 
bluntly informed him that Lord Moyne had been assassinated in 
Cairo by Palestinian Jews. It later emerged that the assassins were 
members of the Stern Group. Killing Jews of opposing ideology had 
been amongst the occupations of this group; Lord Moyne was its 
first scalp amongst foreign statesmen. Weizmann thus had no oppor- 
tunity to test Churchill's statement about Moyne's development'. 
The documents indicate that Moyne's mind had moved towards a 
solution by partition and that he was advising Churchill's Cabinet 
Committee in that direction. Weizmann never forgave Stanley for 
the brutal way in which he conveyed the news to him. .A few days 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 

later he told one of Churchill's friends: 'Oliver Stanley is half my 
age and if he lives to be a hundred he will not do half of what I 
have done in my lifetime.' 

Even now it is difficult to estimate the effect of the Moyne murder 
on the development of a partition solution along the lines intimated 
to Weizmann at Chequers on 4 November. From that date to the 
defeat of the Churchill Government in June 1945 all discussions on 
the final solution were suspended. 

On the other hand it is not easy to accept the view that Churchill 
withdrew in cold rage from a course which he would otherwise have 
pursued. On 17 November we find him sending a minute to the 
Colonial Secretary warning against extreme anti-Zionist action since 
'this may well unite the whole forces of Zionism and even Jewry 
throughout the world against us, instead of against the terrorist 
bands. . . . Dr Weizmann will no doubt join in the protests on the 
grounds that the whole community are being punished for the acts 
of a small minority. 3 This sober communication does not indicate 
that reason has taken flight before the assault of emotion. A more 
probable explanation is that Churchill's tentative resolve to push the 
issue was weakened by the increased strength gained by anti-Zionist 
forces. 

Weizmann arrived in Palestine on 15 November. 

It was a moving reunion. He had faced it with apprehension. His 
labours during the five preceding years had been clothed in a diplo- 
matic secrecy made thicker by the exigencies of war communications. 
Not all his Palestinian colleagues had been at pains to portray his 
exertions in the best and truest light. He had not erred in telling 
Smuts that he was unsure how he stood in Palestinian Jewish eyes. 
Tangible successes had more than once seemed to be in his grasp; 
but all except the Jewish Brigade Group had slipped away. Nor 
was this single gain endowed with the political effect which would 
have adhfered to it if it had been secured when first promised to 
him in 1941. But his perseverance had been unlimited, his tenacity 
unceasing. He could face the tense and embattled Yishuv with 
easy conscience. Militavi Non Sine Gloria. But would they under- 
stand? 

The answer came in the storm of welcome which struck him from 
the moment of his arrival and attended him for twelve frenzied 
weeks. The Hebrew press poured out its affection in words of stately 
tribute. The community surrounded him with the emblems and 
ceremonies befitting a beloved Head of State. Indeed, anyone read- 



2 7 6 1939-1949 

ing the newspapers of that period today would find it hard to believe 
that the Jewish State under Weizmann's presidency had not already 
been established. The British High Commissioner, Lord Gort, 
solemnly exchanged visits with him. Schoolchildren crowded into 
the streets to greet his coming. The farmers of Galilee endlessly dis- 
played their smiling fields and plump livestock. At Rehovoth his 
scientific colleagues at the Sieff Institute saluted him with awe. The 
little township puffed out its chest and almost exploded with pride. 
A trainload of Jewish soldiers, enlisted in the Brigade Group over 
which he and Sharett had spent so much of their vital force, were 
shunted onto the Rehovoth platform to parade before the two men 
who had arduously laboured for their establishment. 

He was moved by these tributes to the depths of his soul. His 
people had understood and respected the constancy of his labour. 
They knew that he could not guarantee victories. He could, at most, 
deserve them. This he had done through the five long years since the 
dark days of parting at Geneva. Venerable and immaculate, erect 
and majestic in bearing, he moved amongst them in towns and vil- 
lages and talked in simple Hebrew words of the suffering which had 
bound them together and of the statehood which was their due. He 
spoke out with emphasis against the assassinations and bomb throw- 
ings of the dissident groups. As he retired each evening to the 
verdant beauty of his Rehovoth home the bitter, frustrated, persis- 
tent toil of foggy, bomb-ridden London seemed like a nightmare 
receding before the morning light. On 4 December his seventieth 
birthday by the Hebrew calendar the chorus of affection swelled 
to a new intensity. Addressing the Elected Assembly of Palestine 
Jews on Mount Scopus he analysed the political forces which would 
soon converge on the post-war Jewish problem. C A drop of love and 
tenderness in a sea of bereavement and anguish,' wrote the daily 
Davar, 'this is what we seek on this day of greeting to the leader of 
our nation's liberation movement. . . . Every clod of soil in our home- 
land re-echoes with a prayer for redemption ' 

At a Zionist assembly in Tel Aviv, flanked by his colleagues, 
friends and erstwhile critics, he reaffirmed the claim for statehood 
in ringing words. He was home again, and his long absence, pro- 
longed by compulsion or, perhaps, by an erroneous judgment of 
priorities, was forgotten in this the most ardent of all his reunions 
with the land and people in whose service he was pledged. 

He returned to London early in March 1945. He was immediately 
affected by glaucoma and condemned to temporary blindness and 
to tense, agonizing operations. The first news to reach his bedside 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 277 

came from the American Zionist leader, Stephen Wise, reporting on 
a conversation with President Roosevelt on his return from Yalta. 
The talk had taken place on 16 March and Wise had no premoni- 
tion that the President had entered his last month of life. When Wise 
congratulated him on his success at Yalta, Roosevelt had replied: 
4 1 have had a failure. The one failure of my mission was with Ibn 
Saud. Everything went well, but not that, and I arranged the whole 
meeting with him for the sake of your problem.' The President went 
on 'Every time I mentioned the Jews he would shrink.' When Roose- 
velt had spoken of what the Jews had done for the reclamation of 
the soil Ibn Saud had said, *My people don't like trees. We are 
desert dwellers.* With mischievous satisfaction Roosevelt told Wise 
that Churchill had launched all his rhetoric at Ibn Saud the next 
day for two hours with equal poverty of result. 

Thus came the end of the strange and unsubstantial Anglo- 
American illusion that Ibn Saud, the c decisive' figure in Arab poli- 
tics, would exert his influence for Arab-Israel understanding. It may 
be that the memory of the Feisal-Weizmann encounter twenty-five 
years before had sustained this romantic hope beyond any normal 
point of credulity. 

The war with Germany ended in April 1945. Early in that month 
Churchill had written to Weizmann postponing a meeting with him 
on the grounds of intense preoccupation. This was unusual. Might 
it be an ominous symptom of uneasy conscience? Or the worried 
reaction of a statesman facing defeat? In the 16 March talk with 
Stephen Wise, Roosevelt had predicted Churchill's downfall in the 
June election. It is unlikely that Churchill himself was less well 
informed. 

Weizmann now sent the Prime Minister a concise description of 
the situation. 'The position of the Jews in liberated countries is des- 
perate. The political position in Palestine is becoming untenable. 
And so is my personal position as President of the Jewish Agency. 
This is the hour to eliminate the White Paper, to open the doors of 
Palestine and to proclaim the Jewish State.' 

These six statements expressed all the themes to which he had 
devoted his exposition for the past six years. Those years had seen 
many moments of shock. Scarcely a month had passed without a 
telephone ringing or a cablegram arriving with some tidings of dis- 
appointment or doom. Sometimes it had been personal bereavement, 
as when he had learned of Michael's death; sometimes the loss of 
friends Cazalet, Wedgwood, Wingate; and in his own official 
Zionist family Dov Hos, Berl Katznelson, Eliahu Golomb. Then 



278 i939~ I 949 

there were memories of conversations and letters in which hopes 
suddenly raised were just as suddenly dashed. But never was he to 
receive a document more full of disillusionment than the letter which 
came from Churchill on 9 June. 

10 Downing Street, 
Whitehall 

9 June 1945. 

My dear Dr Weizmann, 

I have received your letter of 22 May, enclosing a memorandum 
on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. There can, I fear, be 
no possibility of the question being effectively considered until the 
victorious Allies are definitely seated at the Peace Table. 
Yours sincerely, 

WINSTON S. CHURCHILL. 

For months Churchill had been telling Weizmann that a substantive 
move would be made when the German war was over. Time and 
again he had emphasized his opposition to the White Paper. He had 
discussed partition ('If the choice is between partition and the White 
Paper you should take partition'). He had agreed that Israel should 
have the Negev. He had made solemn personal commitments ( I 
shall see you through'). He had lectured the Chiefs of Staff against 
the White Paper. He had talked of the past ('I have inherited some- 
thing from Balfour 5 ) and of the future ('If Roosevelt and I are at 
the Conference table, there is nothing that we cannot do'). He had 
given his Cabinet colleagues notice of his views ('The Jews must 
have territory'). And now he was winding up his historic ministry 
with the White Paper unabrogated, no commitment on the record 
and Weizmann left high and dry, standing before the Jewish people 
baffled, enraged, undermined and empty-handed. A week later 
Churchill was out of office. And a few months after that his voice, 
from the Opposition benches, castigated the new government for not 
giving Zionism its due. 

It is not easy to reconcile all this with the accepted view of Chur- 
chill's place in Zionist history. Did he believe that he would return 
to power in a few weeks and that there was no point in rushing the 
issue between the end of the German War and the election? Or was 
he brooding on the prospect of defeat and confident, after con- 
fronting Weizmann and Attlee at Chequers, that the Labour Party 
would not let the Jews down ? These are the only suppositions which 
have any power of extenuation. But in view of his constant emphasis 
in every Cabinet minute on Weizmann's personal role one would 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 27Q 

have expected Churchill to be sensitive to Weizmann's reference to 
himself ('My position as President of the Jewish Agency is becom- 
ing untenable 5 ). After all, it would have been easy to strengthen his 
hand. A statement declaring that Britain, with American support, 
would seek a solution other than the White Paper, and was actively 
deliberating on partition, would have given a solid starting-point for 
Zionist relations with the next government. This was not done. 
Weizmann's last letter to Churchill as Prime Minister speaks of 
'great shock 5 and disappointment 

On the receipt of Churchill's letter, Weizmann immediately made 
preparations to resign his leadership: 

Mrs Dugdale's Diary 27 June 

In the morning long informal talk between Chaim, Berl Locker, 
Lewis Namier and self about his projected resignation and the 
means of informing the PM beforehand He will . . . write a letter, 
but also use the best personal channels which would appear to be 
Smuts, Randolph [Churchill]. Should this be before or after 
next Big Three meeting? 

Weizmann had invested endless hope and toil in Churchill and 
Roosevelt. By the summer of 1945, Roosevelt was dead and Chur- 
chill swept from power. The two had been endowed with unchal- 
lengeable power to set the Jewish cause on the road to consolation 
and recovery. They had not used that power. When they left the 
scene which they had dominated for six years the Jewish people 
stood at the lowest point of its historic fortune stunned with 
anguish, ignored, rebuffed and with no glimpse of light ahead. 

On 26 July the Churchill Government was defeated and the 
Labour Party returned to power. Palestine Jewry celebrated the 
advent of the e friendly' government with joy. Weizmann suspended 
his resignation plans and returned to the fray. But the celebration 
had been premature 

How many times can one go back to the beginning and rebuild a 
shattered fortress of hope? Weizmann must have asked himself this 
question many times as he drove to Whitehall to demand his people's 
justice from the new and mediocre Colonial Secretary George Hall 
and his well-meaning but weak deputy Arthur Creech- Jones. At the 
Zionist Conference in London in August he had held no promise of 
better days. That meeting had been moving in its many episodes of 
reunion, but quite indecisive on the political future. The Labour 
Party was committed to a pro-Zionist programme. Its policy, as for- 



s8o 1939-1949 

mulated by Hugh Dalton only a few months before, had bravely 
declared: 'There is surely neither hope nor meaning in a Jewish 
National Home unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, 
enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. There 
was a strong case for this before the war. There is an irresistible case 
now after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold and calculated 
German Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe . . .' The statement went 
on to propose a voluntary population exchange: 'Let the Arabs be 
encouraged to move out as the Jews move in.' 

When Attlee formed his government he had first considered Hugh 
Dalton as Foreign Secretary and Ernest Bevin as Chancellor of 
Exchequer. In twenty-four hours the r61es had been reversed. It 
is tempting to speculate on the influence of this change on Zionist 
fortunes. Dalton is revealed in his papers and diaries published in 
i gGs 1 as an ardent partitionist, pressing his case in Cabinet from 
1945 to ear ty T 947- At that stage he was so alienated by the Irgun's 
action in strangling two innocent sergeants and attaching booby 
traps to their corpses that, in his words, C I went absolutely cold 
towards the Jews in Palestine and didn't care what happened to 
them.' A few weeks later, however, the papers show him again 
advocating a partition solution. Mr Dalton also records that his 
disposition would have been to accept President Truman's proposal 
for the entry of 100,000 immigrants in 1946. The irony is that if this 
friendly inclination had been put into effect the problem would have 
lost its unendurable tension, and it is doubtful if the state of 
Israel would have arisen. 

Mr Bevin was destined to be Israel's George III, the perverse and 
unwilling agent of her independence. 

How unwilling Bevin was to promote Jewish national survival 
became apparent during the first weeks of the Labour Government's 
life. At his first meeting with the new Foreign Secretary on 10 Octo- 
ber, Weizmann found him in irritable resentment at President 
Truman's proposal for the admission of 100,000 Jewish 'displaced 
persons' from Europe. The President's suggestion to Mr Attlee had 
been made in August on the basis of a report by his special emissary, 
Earl Harrison, who had visited the concentration camps where the 
Jewish survivors lingered on in emancipation and dull despair. 
'They want to be evacuated now,' said Harrison, 'Palestine is 

definitely and pre-eminently their first choice Only in Palestine 

will they be welcome and find peace and quiet and be given an 
opportunity to live and work.' 
l Hugh Dalton, High Tide and After (Muller, London, 1962). 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 28l 

Bevin now told Weizmann that 'he doubted whether the grant of 
100,000 permits would be the right way to set about the business'. 
This ominous negation was followed by a thunderclap on November 
13. In a statement of policy, Bevin refused to cancel the White 
Paper, repudiated the Labour Party's Conference Statement of 
December 1944, observed that e we cannot accept the view that the 
Jews should be driven out of Europe', and announced the appoint- 
ment of an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to consider the 
position of the Jews in Europe and to propose a solution to the two 
governments. In subsequent speeches Bevin spoke insultingly of 
Truman, bluntly ascribing his interest in Palestine to the electoral 
position in New York State. (The Presidential election was three 
years ahead!) Bevin also suggested that Truman's action was moti- 
vated by a desire to see that no more Jews got into the United States, 
and referred offensively to 'a person named Earl Harrison' whose 
report on the aspirations of the Jewish refugees was described as 
'having set the whole thing back 5 . It should be remembered that 
Mr Bevin's main responsibility at that time was to strengthen 
American-British relations. 

In point of fact, President Truman's approach to Attlee in August 
1945 had not been suddenly conceived. He had addressed Churchill 
on 24 July a week before the British election with a suggestion 
that the Palestine problem be discussed between them at the Big 
Three meeting at Potsdam. 

Knowing your deep and sympathetic interest in Jewish settlement 
in Palestine, I venture to express the hope that the British Govern- 
ment may find it possible without delay to lift the restrictions of 
the White Paper on Jewish immigration into Palestine. I hope 
that you can arrange at your earliest convenience to let me have 
your ideas on the settlement of the Palestine problems so that we 
can . . . discuss the problem in concrete terms. 

By the time that this note had reached London, Attlee had suc- 
ceeded Churchill. Between July and November the Labour Govern- 
ment had paid no heed to the President's request. But Truman's 
persistence went far beyond all the deferential communications pre- 
viously made from Washington to London. This led the Attlee 
government to associate the United States in the new Commission 
of Inquiry. 

It was the first formal and active engagement of American policy in 
determining the future of a Near Eastern country. In their indignation 
at Bevin's malevolence, the Zionists probably gave too little weight 



282 I 939- I 949 

to this revolutionary departure. Palestine was never again to move 
within the sole orbit of British jurisdiction. 

Weizmann was in the United States when Bevin's statement was 
announced. On 27 November, his yist birthday, he had addressed 
the Founders' Dinner of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Scien- 
tists and Jewish leaders had taken part in this splendid and august 
occasion for which the stage had been set by Meyer Weisgal, who 
had been Weizmann's chief counsellor in his political work in the 
United States as well as in his scientific enterprises. Rising to 
the homage of a large and distinguished gathering, Weizmann 
had digressed from his observations on the scientific theme to 
speak of the 'considerable bitterness 5 which afflicted him. 'We 
had every reason to believe that the White Paper which had been 
riveted on the neck of the Yishuv would, with the advent of the 
present government, probably be lifted. We have been bitterly 
disappointed.' 

Meanwhile Bevin's callous statements had burst the dykes of 
Jewish restraint. British troops and Jewish resistance groups were 
now in almost daily conflict at one point or another of Palestine 
territory. Hope was focused more and more on American interven- 
tion. Weizmann found Truman an encouraging listener at their first 
meeting on 4 December 1945. He followed up this crucial contact 
with an eloquent memorandum to the President claiming a 'Jewish 
democratic Commonwealth giving shelter, sustenance and peace to 
Jews and Arabs alike'. After a brief stay in London, he set out for 
Palestine at the end of February 1946, to prepare his statement for 
the Anglo-American Commission. 

Today', wrote Richard Grossman in his diary on 8 March, * 'We had 
Weizmann, who looks like a weary and more humane version of 
Lenin, very tired, very ill. ... He spoke for two hours with a mag- 
nificent mixture of passion and scientific detachment He is the 

first witness who has frankly and openly admitted that the issue is 
not between right and wrong, but between the greater and the lesser 
injustice.' 

Few other members of the Anglo-American Commission had 
Grossman's sophistication or power of expression. But they all shared 
his verdict on Weizmann's sombre and moving address. The hearings 
took place in the YMCA Hall in Jerusalem under the chairmanship 
of Mr Justice Singleton, the British Chairman. Among the Ameri- 
can members Bartley Crum and James MacDonald were in strong 

1 R. H. S. Grossman, Palestine Mission (London, 1 947, New York, Harper 
and Bros., 1947)- 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 383 

sympathy with the Jewish cause. Reginald Manningham-BuIIer, 
Lord Morrison and Sir Frederick Leggett were responsive to the 
ideas of the Palestine Administration and the British Government. 
On the American side Professor Aydelotte and Ambassador William 
Phillips maintained the detachment usual to the academic and dip- 
lomatic disposition. A colourful southern Judge, Joseph Hutcheson 
('Texas Joe'), enlivened the deliberations with a carefully contrived 
informality of ideas and expression. 

It was strange that what Roosevelt, Churchill, Sumner Wells, 
Halifax, Attlee and Bevin had feared to decide, should now have 
been put on the shoulders of this able but not excessively distin- 
guished group. 

Arab witnesses stridently urged the end of Zionist development. 
Jewish spokesmen called for free immigration and land purchase and 
the eventual development of a Jewish Commonwealth. Behind the 
scenes Weizmann and Sharett openly hinted that an adequate 
partition plan would win Jewish support. Indeed, Weizmann told 
Crum and Grossman at luncheon in Rehovoth, that he saw no 
possibility of any continuation of the British Administration in 
Palestine. 

'Somehow 5 , wrote a British member of the Commission a year 
later, 'we like the Arabs even though they fight us; and we dislike 
the Jews even if our interests go together. 5 But when the Commission 
reached Lausanne to consider its judgment in the tranquillity of the 
Swiss lakes and mountains, the stress of argument went beyond these 
intuitive prejudices. Partition was considered and rejected as a 
'counsel of despair'. In the glow of the post-war world there was 
reluctance to believe that any two peoples could not be made to live 
together even when all the circumstances of history and sentiment 
proved that a 'desperate* solution was the only true answer to a des- 
perate situation. Finally, the Commission announced its conclusions. 
The White Paper should be abolished, 100,000 immigrants should be 
admitted at once, land restrictions removed, and Palestine be pre- 
pared for trusteeship with no statehood either for the Jews or the 
Arabs. 

The report had rejected Jewish long-term proposals for a 
sovereign state. But in the context of its time it was something of a 
break-through. The White Paper of 1939 was now smashed to 
pieces. The doors were to be opened, the humiliating pale-of- 
settlement land laws repealed and the doctrine of permanent Jewish 
minority status repudiated. The Jewish leaders were divided in their 
attitude. Some, including Ben-Gurion, stressed its negative findings 
on the constitutional future. Others saw it as a point of release for 



284 I 939~ I 949 

pent-up energies and the prelude to a new spurt of intensive con- 
solidation. With a great infusion of Jewish immigrants and a 
broadening of the territorial structure, the prospect of a Jewish State 
solution seemed greatly enhanced. Grossman wrote in his diary on 
22 April: 

I cannot help seeing this report, if adopted by the Government, 

as a useful, indeed a necessary step to an ultimate partition 

The Arabs have lost the White Paper of 1939 and must look for- 
ward now to continued Jewish immigration, and, even more 
important, Jewish settlements being set up over the whole of 
Palestine, now that the Land Transfer Regulations have been 
abolished. 

Zionists who compared the report with their hopes for the future 
were disappointed. Those who compared it with the reality of the 
present were elated. Twice first in the Peel Report of 1937 and 
now in the Anglo-American Inquiry of 1946 the aspiration to 
thwart the dynamic of Zionism had been frustrated by a competent 
and not over-sympathetic tribunal. 

But it was hardly worth while for Zionist leaders to quarrel about 
a report which the British Government refused to implement. Presi- 
dent Truman swiftly published his support of the immigration pro- 
posal which was, by all accounts, the central innovation of the 
report. But in sharp anger, Attlee and Bevin drowned the incipient 
Jewish enthusiasm in a flood of cold water. They made the imple- 
mentation of the plan dependent on American military aid and on 
the disarming of the Jewish population. The disbandment of Jewish 
defence forces had been proposed in the Anglo-American Commis- 
sion's deliberations, but rejected by eight votes to four. Thus Bevin 
had violated his promise to the Commission that he would accept 
any verdict reached unanimously by its members; and Attlee had 
attached a condition which the Commission had explicitly dis- 
missed. In Bournemouth, a few weeks later, Bevin descended to new 
depth of anti-Semitic invective in excusing his rejection of the 
report. 

For the Palestine Jewry the lesson was plain. There was no doubt 
that the British Government would have carried out an anti-Zionist 
report with pious fervour. Bevin' s message to the Jewish people was 
Heads I win, tails you lose.' Acts of violence and sabotage in Pales- 
tine mounted in intensity and frequency. Dark despair descended on 
the refugee camps in Europe. The Labour Government had shown 
something not far from sadism in dispelling the hopes of rescue 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 385 

which the Anglo-American Report had raised in tens of thousands 
of Jewish hearts. 

Attlee and Bevin seemed bent on creating a crisis of revolutionary 
proportions. On 29 June the Palestine Government arrested the 
Jewish Agency leaders, Moshe Sharett, Dov Joseph, Rabbi Maimon 
and David Remez and other representative figures. The Jewish 
Agency headquarters were occupied and searched. The Jewish leaders 
were to be held at Latrun without any charge against them for over 
four months. The leaders of the activist groups whose excesses 
Sharett and his colleagues had castigated were left cheerfully un- 
molested! Even in the history of colonial misrule it would be difficult 
to find a more insane action than this desperate fling of the dying 
mandate. 

It was evidently the hope of the Labour leaders and of the Army 
Intelligence officers under Colonel Martin Charteris that the way 
would be cleared for 'collaboration 3 with and by Dr Weizmann. 
Arriving at Government House the aged Zionist leaders shook the 
High Commissioner Sir Alan Cunningham out of his equanimity. 
In an address to the Actions Committee on 9 July, Weizmann 
excoriated the administration in words far stronger than those used 
by his 'extremist 3 colleagues behind the barbed wire in Latrun: 

When I am asked these days to use my 'restraining influence' my 
mind goes back some forty years or more to the day when a poor 
Jewish tailor shot the Governor-General at Vilna. We were called 
by Plehwe, and commanded to 'restrain 3 our young men, lest 
worse things befall us. And we told Plehwe that, much as we 
deplored such acts of violence, they were the inevitable result of 
the impossible conditions which Russia had herself created for 
her Jewish population and which deprived the leaders of the 
community of any influence they might otherwise have possessed. 
Looking back now, I see that the single shot fired by a little 
Jewish tailor was the first shot of the 'Great Revolution 3 . 

He continued with irony and anger: 

Nothing could be farther from my mind than to suggest com- 
parisons between the Tsarist regime and the British Government 

of today, but one's memory is sometimes irrational Ours is no 

less a struggle Let my people go! 

He went back to London. In the conditions of those pre-jet days 
the frequency and extent of his travel were a prodigy for a man 
72 years old and weighed down by ill-health. On 22 July the news 



286 *939~ I 949 

came that the King David Hotel had been blown up with fearful 
loss of British, Jewish and Arab life. Two days later the British 
Government published a White Paper showing that the Agency 
leaders, not excluding Weizmann, had been privy to the violent 
activism of recent months. On 29 July the press carried a violent 
circular by the Commander of British troops in Palestine, General 
Sir Evelyn Barker, bidding his troops act with 'hatred and con- 
tempt' towards all members of the Jewish 'race', and especially 
'to hit them in the pocket where it hurts'. On 30 July, Weizmann 
was invited to see the Colonial Secretary. He refused to attend until 
the Palestine debate in the House of Commons was over. He sus- 
pected that the Government's intention was to claim that he had 
been 'consulted 3 in advance on its proposed statement of policy. 

The respite offered by the Anglo-American Commission's Report 
had been squandered. Peace had come to Europe only to be dis- 
rupted in Palestine. Bevin had contrived to make an admittedly 
complicated situation even more complicated than it was previously 
thought to be. On i October Weizmann and his colleagues made a 
purposeful attempt to find a path of reason in the thickets of the 
Foreign Secretary's obduracy. 

Weizmann said that he had come 'in the hope that it would be 
possible to hack out a solution which would stop the strife in Pales- 
tine'. The first need was to release the arrested Zionist leaders. Then 
the military command in Palestine should be restrained. 'I do not 
want to waste any words on a man like General Barker. Terrorism 
will not be stopped as long as the Army and General Barker do the 
things that are being done in Palestine. A solution can be arrived at. 
The solution I have in mind is partition.' 

The soft answers did not turn away wrath. The Jewish leaders 
were now given a glimpse into the dark places of the Foreign Sec- 
retary's mind. The official record of the meeting continues: 

Mr Bevin said . . . that as far as he could see the British were the 
best friends of the Jews, but he had never seen so much anti- 
Semitism under the skin as there exists now. . . . They did not 
segregate Jews in this country. The Jews were free here and had 
made a great contribution to the success of Britain in commerce, 
science, and so on. . . . More Jews had been taken into this 
country than any other of its size, but the treatment being meted 
out to them by the Jews was very bad. He thought that the Jewish 
Agency could have helped them earlier. The feeling in this 
country was that they had declared war on Britain. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 287 

. . . The Arabs would not accept partition. Was he to force it on 
them with British bayonets? He would try to get agreement, other- 
wise they would hand the Mandate back to UNO. He wanted to 
work out a plan for a unitary state with democratic safeguards. 
He would like as the greatest triumph of his career to find a 
solution. 

Mr Hall then reiterated the invitation to the Jewish representatives 
to attend the 'conference' then being held to find a solution. The 
Arabs had been in attendance for many weeks; but the Jewish 
Agency had refused to participate until its leaders were released. 

As the Jewish leaders dispersed into the dark London streets their 
minds revolved confusedly on the medley of ideas that they had just 
heard. Would any other Foreign Secretary in British history have 
openly and persistently described such an issue in terms of his own 
'career 9 ? Yet this theme was never absent from Bevin's discourse. It 
seemed to set him apart from the style and tradition established by 
all those who had preceded or were to follow him in that room. 

The 'plan' to which he referred later turned out to be a federal 
scheme propounded by a reluctant Herbert Morrison to the House 
of Commons. It involved the establishment of a tiny enclave, with- 
out sovereignty, in which Jewish immigration and settlement would 
be permitted. The Jews had no two minds about this idea; and there 
followed a warm and moving correspondence between the two lead- 
ing figures in Zionism. 

28.10.1946. Letter from Mr David Ben-Gurion (Paris) 
to Dr Weizmann (London) 
(Translated from Hebrew) 

I rejoiced to hear that your second [eye] operation succeeded and 
that you will soon leave hospital for a rest in Switzerland. I hope 
that you will be able to participate in full vigour in the Congress. 
I am sure that even those who do not agree with you in every 
respect have much to learn from your experience and your 
sagacity and especially from your profound Jewish and Zionist 
intuition. . . . 

I think that we have reached a political cross-road. . . . Even 
though there are a few in the Yishuv who believe that we should 
resign ourselves to the Morrison plan, since it gives a possibility of 
immigration and constructive work and may in the future lead to 
a State. I believe that we should oppose the plan with all our 
power, to the extent of boycotting any Conference which places it 
in the centre of its deliberations. Even more we should go so far 



288 

as to boycott the plan if the Government tries to impose it on the 
Jews and Arabs. 

This is not because we should reject every compromise. On the 
contrary We should, in my opinion, be ready for an en- 
lightened compromise even if it gives us less in practice than we 
have a right to in theory, but only so long as what is granted to 
us is really in our hands. That is why I was in favour of the prin- 
ciple of the Peel Report in 1937 and would even now accept a 
Jewish State in an adequate part of the country, rather than a 
British Mandate with White Paper rights in all the country. . . . 

Our line should be the Mandate or a State. For as long as 
Britain rules Palestine she must carry out the Mandate as the 
League of Nations intended. ... If Britain is unable or unwilling 
to carry out the Mandate, she should agree to the establishment 
of a Jewish State, even if not in the whole of Palestine, but at 
once 

I hope to find you in better health and able to bring your con- 
tribution to this Congress a contribution that the providence of 
Jewish history has enabled only you to bring,' 

Ben-Gurion concluded in words of eloquent tribute to his older 
colleague: 

. . . Whatever your views are on all this you remain for me the 
elect of Jewish history, representing beyond compare the suffer- 
ing and the glory of the Jews. And wherever you go you will be 
attended by the love, and faithful esteem of me and of my col- 
leagues. We are the generation which comes after you and which 
has been tried, perhaps, by crueller and greater sufferings and we 
sometimes, for this reason, see things differently but fundamen- 
tally we draw from the same reservoir of inspiration that of 
sorely tried Russian Jewry the qualities of tenacity, faith, and 
persistent striving which yields to no adversary or foe. 

6.II.IQ46. Letter from Dr Weizmann to Mr Ben-Gurion 

My dear E.G., 

I was greatly moved by your very charming and friendly letter 
to me and touched by your considerateness in taking such pains to 
write it by hand and in big letters. I am sorry that, even so, I was 
unable to read it all myself, and had to have most of it read to 
me. My eyes are improving, but slowly. When I get my new 
glasses I look forward to reading it all for myself I hope in a 
few days from now. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 389 

I am in cordial agreement with the main lines of your policy, 
though I think it would be wrong to abstain from the Conference, 
even if our point of view is not accepted beforehand. I believe the 
others will eventually come round to it. 

A great deal will, of course, turn on the conversations between 
Byrnes and Bevin now going on. I can't help feeling that the 
inexorable logic of facts will drive them towards partition. I was 
very happy to see in the papers today that you are seeing Lord 
Inverchapel he used to be a very good friend of ours, and I hope 
still is. I shall be much interested to hear of your conversation 
with him. . . . 

We both send you and Paula our affectionate regards: may the 
future bring you every satisfaction, and some freedom from 
the cares which have oppressed us all so heavily in the last few 
years. 

CHAIM WEIZMANN. 

For fifty years the parliament of the Jewish people had wandered 
pathetically between hired halls in European lake-resorts and spas. 
Basle was its first home. Some Zionist veterans were still alive who 
could recall the top-hatted, white-tied Assembly in which Herzl and 
Nordau tried to introduce the Jewish people to the order and 
majesty of European parliamentarism. But by 1946 symbolism and 
formality were not the main purpose. Zionism had become a rami- 
fied enterprise with its banks, funds, companies and newspapers. 
Above all, the Congress was the arena for the political debate. Its 
discussions re-echoed with the appeal to remove Jewish history from 
its isolated compartment and merge it into the cosmic procession in 
which all other nations moved. 

In the days before the Nazi holocaust all the colours of the Jewish 
spectrum were reflected here. Industrialists, professional men and 
Rabbis from America and South Africa mingled with dark-eyed 
Yemenites from Palestinian farms. East European Zionists, passion- 
ate and intense, poured out their dreams in public, while prosperous 
and cultivated German Jews would meditate on the more practical 
and urgent compromises of tomorrow. A small delegation of British 
Jewry would patiently accept its submergence in this flood, and then 
go back with relief to Great Russell Street where, by the grace of 
political geography, it counted for something beyond its mere num- 
bers. In recent years Palestinian Jewry, with double representation in 
tribute to its special status, had come to dominate the Congress with 
and varied delegations which were almost a facsimile of the 



290 i939 1 949 

On this stage Weizmann had been the leading star for thirty years. 
The appearance of the massive domed head and tall figure at the 
rostrum would hush the turmoil, as his soft, modulated voice came 
across the benches where the Jewish people sat, complete in its 
diversity. 

And now he was probably going there for the last time. As he 
struggled in Lugano to regain his sight after the London operations 
he had heard little of the manceuvrings which were to drive him from 
his presidential office. The plain fact was that the Zionist movement 
had moved out of primeval innocence to taste the fruit of political 
knowledge good and evil. There were ambitions, envies, caucuses, 
lobbies, jostlings and shovings as well as the overriding conflicts of 
ideology and policy which gave legitimacy to all of these. 

Weizmann had built no bridges and mended no fences in this 
internal political struggle. He had never campaigned or election- 
eered. The President of the Zionist Organization was a Prime Minis- 
ter, Ambassador and Tax-Collector rolled into one. The powers of 
the office had never been defined. But in the years in which it mat- 
tered most its main incumbents had been Herzl and Weizmann, with 
David Wolffsohn and Nahum Sokolow serving periods of manifest 
and avowed interregnum. The attributes of the two chief Presidents 
emphasized the authoritarian aspect of the office. Whatever one 
thought of Herzl and Weizmann, nobody could imagine them in any 
role but that of captaincy. 

There can be no doubt that many leaders of the American and 
Palestinian delegations came to Basle with the fixed idea of remov- 
ing Weizmann from office. This, indeed, was the only original idea 
with which they came. The clash was of personalities, not of policies. 
Did Weizmann, behind the Biltmore formula, see the 'sinful' shape 
of Partition? Partition was precisely what his adversaries wanted 
and what, with his aid, they were going to get. Did they feel that the 
mandatory period had run its course and suffered no renewal? It 
was he who had told the Anglo-American Commissioners that 'some- 
thing had snapped 9 in the British Jewish relationship and a new 
solution by statehood was now imperative. Was the trouble with 
him that he always condemned the dissident activists? As soon as he 
was dismissed the Congress, by a large majority, adopted a resolu- 
tion 'opposing and condemning acts of murder and bloodshed of 
innocent people as a means of political struggle'. The resolution 
went on: c . . . The terrorist acts of certain groups in Palestine which 
have separated themselves from the community, violating the disci- 
pline of the supreme national institutions, distort the true character 
nf tin ft Yishuv in the eyes of the world and do not advance, but 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 2gi 

rather injure its just struggle. The Congress proclaims its full sup- 
port of the Yishuv in its anti-terrorist efforts. 5 

The truth is that the Congress was torn between a deep affection 
for his person and a sentiment that he symbolized a policy which 
they and he no longer upheld, but with which a stubborn mytho- 
logy had identified him beyond repair. Their resentment against 
Britain was nothing as compared to his. They felt politically frus- 
trated. He felt personally as well as nationally betrayed. But a states- 
man remains a symbol of an attitude long after the attitude has 
passed away. The Zionist movement was entering a short but crucial 
phase of intense conflict with Britain. Weizmann's leadership of such 
a conflict would have diminished the credibility of the conflict itself. 
The logic which had led him to surrender his Presidency in protest 
against the first Government's betrayal in 1930 might well have been 
valid now. But instead of following this course, in harmony and 
consent, the Congress and he fell apart in a tragic atmosphere, of 
resentment on his part and furtive distrust on theirs. 

And yet there was no Congress which he dominated so completely. 
'The shadow of tragic bereavement is upon us tonight/ he said in 
the opening address, casting a glance inquiringly over the assembly, 
as if to wonder where German, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch and 
Belgian Jewry had gone. The voice was choked, the eyes tense and 
painful behind the dark glasses. 'The greatest malice in the annals 
of inhumanity was turned against us and found our people with no 

hope of defence European Jewry had been engulfed in a tidal 

wave. Its centres of life and culture have been ravaged, its habita- 
tions laid waste,' 

The familiar voice continued, low in tone and incisive in formu- 
lation. He spoke of the White Paper: Tew documents in history 
have worse consequences for which to answer.' He told of British 
ministerial promises which he had frankly believed: 'It seemed in- 
credible that anybody could be playing fast and loose with us when 
we were so battered and exhausted.' He did not deny the existence 
of a stronge anti-British current in the sentiment of the Jewish 
people: 'If there is antagonism directed against the British Govern- 
ment, its sole origin is indignation at Britain's desertion of her trust. 5 
He spoke lucidly of Arab hostility: 'How can it be moderate for 
them to claim seven states and extreme for us to claim one? Sym- 
pathy belongs to those who have suffered. Restitution is the desert 
of those in need. The Arab people cannot compare with us in suffer- 
ing and need.' 

In an electric atmosphere he declared that he understood the 
motives which led many young Jews in Palestine to violence. ' It is 



2 9 2 * 939~ I 949 

difficult in such circumstances to retain a belief in the victory of 

peaceful ideals. And yet I affirm without any hesitation that we 

have to retain it Jews came to Palestine to build, not to destroy. 

. . . Massada, for all its heroism, was a disaster in our history. 
Zionism was to mark the end of our glorious deaths and the begin- 
ning of a new path whose watchword is Life!' 

The debate went on, endlessly. Nobody rose to his level of feeling 
or expression. Here and there criticism of his patience was expressed. 
Some speakers committed the cardinal sin in his eyes the confusion 
between formulating a policy and indicating the road to its fulfil- 
ment. Little was said in collision with his views. But he was in a 
strange de-humanized atmosphere in which younger men felt that 
he was quite simply and personally in their way. 

He reached a firm decision. Like the blinded Samson he would 
grip the pillars of the Temple and bring it down upon his head. On 
1 6 December he arose to perform the most remarkable of his ora- 
torical feats at any Congress. With delicate scorn he lashed out at 
those who recoiled from the necessity of patient toil, both in diplo- 
macy and in development. He promised 'blood and tears'. There 
was no shame in failure, 'My grandfather used to say that he never 
made any mistakes in the letters which he did not write.' In the chan- 
ceries as in his own laboratories he believed in the experimental 
method. e Our suffering and anguish are not sufficient reason to 
desert a rational path in favour of adventurism.' He was not inter- 
ested in the debate between adherents of Silver and Goldmann about 
credit for American support. 'There are enough credits around for 
everybody to get his fair supply.' 

An American Zionist leader had urged Palestinian Jewry to revolt 
against Britain while American Jews 'would give full political and 
moral support'. Weizmann was enraged by this formulation. He 
would have none of this division between the battlefield and the 
side-lines. He now uttered the rebuke which may have cost him the 
Presidency: 'Moral and political support is very little when you send 
other people to the barricades to face tanks and guns. The eleven 
new settlements just established in the Negev have, in my deepest' 
conviction, a far greater weight than a hundred speeches about 
resistance especially when the speeches are made in New York 
while the proposed resistance is to be made in Tel-Aviv and 
Jerusalem.' 

His voice was now stronger than anybody remembered it for a 
long time. As he delivered his rebuke against vicarious 'activism' by 
those who intended to stay far away from the gunpowder, a delegate 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 2Q3 

called out 'Demagogy'. He stopped his discourse, took off his glasses, 
and stood in stunned silence. Never had this happened to him. His 
age, infirmity, patient toil and sacrifice had been violated in a 
moment of dreadful rancour. The Assembly sat in horrified tension 
as he pondered his reply. The Congress protocol quotes him as fol- 
lows: 'Somebody has called me a demagogue. I do not know who. I 
hope that I never learn the man's name. I a demagogue! I who 
have borne all the ills and travail of this movement (loud applause). 
The person who flung that word in my face ought to know that in 
every house and stable in Nahalal, in every little workshop in Tel- 
Aviv or Haifa, there is a drop of my blood. (Tempestuous applause. 
The delegates all rise to their feet except the Revisionists and 
Mizrachi). You know that I am telling you the truth. Some people 
don't like to hear it but you will hear me. I warn you against bogus 
palliatives, against short cuts, against false prophets, against facile 
generalizations, against distortion of historic facts. ... If you think 
of bringing the redemption nearer by un- Jewish methods, if you 
lose faith in hard work and better days, then you commit idolatry 
(avodah zarah) and endanger what we have built. Would that I had 
a tongue of flame, the strength of prophets, to warn you against the 
paths of Babylon and Egypt. "Zion shall be redeemed in Judgment" 
and not by any other means.' 

No dramatist could have conceived a more overpowering climax. 
He left the hall never again to make a controversial address to a 
Jewish audience. Between the rows of applauding delegates stand- 
ing in awe and contrition he made his way painfully, gropingly, into 
the street. A few days later he appeared to make a short farewell. * If 
I have said harsh things to anyone, I did not intend to hurt. The 
Jewish people, especially those waiting in the camps, look to you to 
open the gates. I thank you all.' 

The delegates arose, this time without exception and sang 
Hatikvah. Weizmann, the Zionist, had left the Congress arena for 
ever. 

He had made his presidency dependent on freedom for the Zionist 
executive, if it saw fit, to attend discussions in London in a last 
attempt to concert a settlement with Britain. The Congress, by a 
small majority, rejected a Labour-Zionist resolution, proposed by 
Golda Meir, urging this course, and voted categorically against 
attending the London Conference 'in present circumstances'. This 
was tantamount to a rejection of his candidacy. 

A month later with no change of 'circumstances' the new Execu- 
tive attended talks with the British Government in London and 



294 i939~ I 949 

attempted to reach an agreement on the basis of partition. For the 
second time in two decades the Zionist movement had first dismissed 
Weizmann and then followed his advice. 

On 23 December he returned to London where he .heard of his final 
defeat at Basle. His bitterness was sharp. It was directed both at the 
British Government which had betrayed his hopes and at his Zionist 
followers who had withheld the candour and appreciation which he 
thought that he had earned. He fell into an aggrieved solitude. In a 
letter to friends during January he mentioned a small group of 
Zionists who continued to keep him in touch with the pulse and 
spirit of events: 'Sacher, Simon Marks, Isaiah Berlin, Stein, Eban 
and a few others.' He ends his letter pathetically: 'Give my love to 
Lipsky and other friends (if any).' 

Early in February 1947 he left for Palestine and gave himself - 
actively to the work of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Eight 
months before amidst daily violence and tension, he had laid the 
foundation stone of the Institute in a short address, whose motto is 
monumentally inscribed today on the Weizmann Memorial Plaza: 
C I believe that science will bring to this country both peace and 
renewal of its youth/ 

He had given up the reins, but his ears were alertly tuned to the 
news from London. There, in a chilly room of the Colonial Office, 
with the electric light repeatedly going out owing to the fuel short- 
age, the last attempt was being made to reach a settlement by con- 
sent between Britain and the Jewish people. It was a populous and 
unwieldy negotiation between British representatives from the 
Foreign and Colonial Offices (Bevin, Creech- Jones, Sir Norman 
Brook, Sir Douglas Harris, Sir Thomas Lloyd, Beeley, Martin, 
Baxter, Trafford Smith, Armstrong) and a large Jewish Agency 
delegation (Ben-Gurion, Shertok, Brodetsky, Gruenbaum, Gold- 
mann, Neumann, Locker, Horowitz, Eban, Linton, Rosenne). Not 
for a single moment did Bevin allow a conciliatory mood to take 
root. The discussion ranged from Partition, which Bevin professed 
himself as unentitled to impose, to various federal schemes based on 
the Morrison Plan, which Bevin had amended ferociously to the 
Jewish detriment. While constantly asserting that it would be wrong 
under partition to place 300,000 Arabs under Jewish 'domination', 
Bevin declined to explain why it would be right, under his proposals, 
to subject 700,000 Jews to the domination of the Arabs. 

The Jewish leaders saw British policy at its lowest level of repre- 
sentation. It had neither the old imperial dignity nor the liberalism 
of the post-war age. It was incredible that the very Cabinet which 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 295 

stood paralysed before the Palestine issue had carried out the Indian 
Partition with such audacity and sweep. 

Above all, it was the policy of a tired nation, weary of responsi- 
bilities beyond its power. As the talks proceeded into late February 
Bevin sank into a mood of cosmic despair. He began to declare that 
he would 'wash his hands of the whole business' and send the issue 
to the United Nations. The Zionist leaders reacted to this idea with 
scepticism and distaste. They believed neither that Britain would 
relinquish its trust, nor that the Jewish cause would triumph in the 
arena of multilateral diplomacy. But there was no other way out. 
Churchill had for several months been advocating the end of the 
Mandate. C I cannot . . . recede from the advice which I have ven- 
tured to give, namely that if we cannot fulfil our promises to the 
Zionists we should, without delay, place our mandate for Palestine 
at the feet of the United Nations and give due notice of our impend- 
ing evacuation of that country.' 

Bevin had been won round to this policy by the failure of the 
February talks. On 18 February 1947, the decision came in a public 
announcement. 

His Majesty's Government have of themselves no power under 
the terms of the Mandate to award the country either to the 
Arabs or to the Jews, or even to partition it between them. . . . We 
have therefore reached the conclusion that the only course open 
to us is to submit the problem to the judgment of the United 
Nations. 

In preparation for a substantive discussion in the autumn session, 
the United Kingdom requested a special session earlier in the year. 
On 29 April 1947 the General Assembly convened at Flushing 
Meadow, New York with 'the Palestine question' inscribed on its 
agenda where it was to remain for many long years to come. 

The Jewish cause had been anchored for four decades in British 
waters. For good or ill it was now set loose on the international 
ocean. The first sensation was of solitude rather than of exhilaration. 
The League of Nations had never played much of a role in the 
administration of the Mandate of which it was theoretically the 
master. British ministers, diplomats and colonial officials had reacted 
with condescension to the duty of reporting every year to amiable 
foreigners in Geneva, such as the Swiss Rappard, the Belgian Orts 
and their own luminary, Lord Lugard. It cannot be said that the 
Zionist executive during the late I93o's invested any great tenacity 
or optimism in cultivating Geneva as a possible counter-weight to 



296 i 939-1 949 

London. As the League's prestige declined in general, it sank in 
each particular problem submitted to it. 

But now on the ruins of the League a new and seemingly more 
robust international organization had arisen, fortified by the mem- 
bership of all the major powers, and enjoying American support to 
a degree that must have caused ironical anguish to the ghost of 
Woodrow Wilson. There was, of course, a danger that the special 
ethos and pathos of Zionism would be submerged in the torrent of 
global politics. After all, the slogan of self-determination had never 
been applied to an ingathering people not yet constituting a majority 
on its soil. 

But there was also an opportunity. The Jewish claim would now 
be weighed on the scale of international justice, remote, to some 
degree, from the strategic interests of any single power. On 15 May 
1947 the General Assembly voted to appoint a Special Committee to 
make recommendations to the General Assembly. It had heard an 
eloquent appeal from Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver. 

The Jewish people belongs in this society of nations. Surely the 
Jewish people is no less deserving than other peoples whose 
national freedom and independence have been established and 
whose representatives are now seated here. The Jewish people 
were your Allies in the war and joined their sacrifices to yours to 

achieve a common victory The representatives of the Jewish 

people of Palestine should sit in your midst 

Eleven countries, other than the Great Powers (Sweden, Canada, 
Iran, India, Holland, Australia, Guatemala, Uruguay, Peru, Czecho- 
slovakia and Yugoslavia), were appointed to the United Nations 
Special Committee. The Jewish Agency announced the appointment 
of two liaison officers, Abba Eban and David Horowitz. The Arab 
Higher Committee, in a blunder of historic scale, boycotted the 
Committee and refused to be represented. The Jewish liaison officers 
were briefed by the head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, 
Moshe Sharett, to work for the creation of c a Jewish state in a suit- 
able area of Palestine. 

Weizmann had been remote from all these affairs. In Rehovoth he 
had observed the debacle of the mandate, sharpened by the conflict 
between the Jewish community and the British administration. In a 
letter to Churchill's secretary, John Martin, he wrote: 'I was sad- 
dened to hear the report from Linton about the talks in London and 
partition being relegated to the back bench. I am quite certain that 
they will have to come back to it Being an optimist I believe that 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 397 

Palestine will not go up in smoke If it does I will go up with 

it.' To Richard Grossman he wrote in March: C I do not believe in 
the UNO business. It will procrastinate matters and if it can be 
avoided everything should be done to achieve such a purpose.' 

But nothing could be done and the United Nations phase was 
in full and crucial swing. When the Commission reached Palestine 
the Jewish Agency Executive invited Weizmann, the private citizen, 
to enter the fray. The anomaly of his removal from the Presidency 
at Basle had now been revealed on three counts. First, no President 
had been elected in his place, and the responsibility oscillated be- 
tween Ben-Gurion in Jerusalem and Silver in New York. Second, at 
every international crisis or opportunity his prestige and power of 
exposition were still regarded as indispensable. Third, the Jewish 
Agency was aiming at the very partition solution which he had sup- 
ported unwaveringly for ten years and which the Agency itself was 
unable formally to sponsor. Officially its programme called for the 
solution, impossible in the short run, of a Jewish state in the whole 
of Palestine. 

On 8 July 1947 Weizmann appeared before the United Nations 
Special Committee. 'I speak', he said, 'in my private capacity, but 
I believe I speak the mind of the overwhelming majority of the 
Jewish people everywhere. . . . The views to which I give expression 
here are the results of a long experience in one of the most intricate 
problems confronting the statesman of the world.' He went on to 
advocate partition as the only available solution combining the three 
qualities of 'finality, equality and justice'. 

As a link with the heroic age of Zionism he was able to quote a 
letter from Field-Marshal Smuts which had reached him that 
week advocating a partition plan. One of the Committee members, 
Jorge Garcia Granados of Guatemala, has recorded the deep 
impression made on the Committee by Weizmann's dignity, 
eloquence and authority. a Even the usually violent interrogation of 
the Indian representative Sir Abdurrahman sank to a deferential 
whisper. 

But his main impression on the UNSCOP discussion lay in a series 
of private conversations and luncheons, to which the Jewish liaison 
officers took the Committee members at his Rehovoth home. Horo- 
witz has vividly described these occasions : 

The Committee in two successive groups visited Dr Weizmann's 
home at Rehovoth, where they dined and had long conversations. 
Weizmann sparkled, especially at the first conversation. With 

1 Jorge Garcia Granados, The Birth of Israel (New York), 1949. 



29 8 I 939- I 949 

masterful dexterity he interwove the story of his own early years 
with the broad narrative of the Jewish people's past and destiny, 
so that the latter appeared to focus on his own experiences. The 
wonderful synthesis of Jewish wit and delicate irony of this fine 
and gifted personality, who combined Jewish simplicity with the 
highest values of the European spirit in the best sense of the term; 
his tales about his father, the timber-merchant of Pinsk, and of 
the school in which he studied in his youth; and thrown in casu- 
ally, his references to meetings with the great ones of the earth, 
completely captivated those present, who included Justice Sand- 
strom and Justice Rand. 

Dr Bunche, who was greatly moved, referred to his feelings as 
a Negro and the emotional identity that Dr Weizmann's descrip- 
tion of Jewish destiny aroused in him. 

As we motored down to Rehovoth, Sandstrom and Rand inter- 
rogated me at length on settlement and security matters. Driving 
back to Jerusalem they sat silent and meditative, and only mur- 
mured. ' Well, that's really a great man.' a 

While the United Nations Committee was in Palestine some of its 
members watched the squalid spectacle of Jewish refugees from 
Europe being violently returned by British troops to the ship Exodus 
and driven back first to France and then to Germany. It was difficult 
to know what Bevin thought that he was doing. It is not surprising 
that the entire Committee stated in its first recommendation that the 
Mandate must come to an end. Its death had been advocated by 
those who had given it birth Churchill, Smuts, Weizmann. It only 
remained to prescribe the alternative, and the majority suggested a 
partition scheme which included the Negev in the Jewish state. At 
an informal meeting at Sharett's house in Jerusalem Ben-Gurion had 
openly discussed partition with the Commissioners at a meeting also 
attended by Eliezer Kaplan, Golda Meir, David Horowitz, Abba 
Eban and Leo Kohn. 

As the Committee deliberated in Geneva it became more and 
more captivated by the logic of the Peel Report, which had been 
Weizmann's chief success in the thirty's. Members of the Committee 
informed the Jewish liaison officers that they would not have been 
able to recommend such an audacious solution if the 1937 proposal 
had not lain before them, with the added force of a decade's experi- 
ence to sustain it. 

At midnight on i September the report proposing partition was 

1 David Horowitz, A State in the Making (New York), 1953. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 399 

handed to the Jewish liaison officers in the Palais des Nations at 
Geneva. 

This was the authentic turning-point. But it was only potentially 
decisive. If the Committee had rejected the Jewish case, the United 
Nations would never have adopted a favourable recommendation. 
Now that it had advocated Jewish statehood there was at least a 
chance of General Assembly endorsement. A splendid gleam of 
friendship had lit up the Jewish solitude. 

The arena now shifted to United Nations headquarters where the 
most crucial political struggle in modern Jewish history was joined. 
Everything depended on the possibility of uniting America and 
Russia in support of the Committee's proposal. At the outset this 
prospect was not certain. In 1946 the State Department had indi- 
cated, in a conversation between Assistant Secretary Dean Acheson 
and Dr Nahum Goldmann, that it would support a viable partition 
plan in preference to the Morrison Plan if this were proposed by the 
mandatory power. But this statement had not been followed up, and 
the United States had explicitly told the members of UNSCOP that 
it did not wish to determine the United Nations position in advance. 
In the event, it was UNSCOP which brought American support for 
partition, and not vice versa. 

The Soviet Union, in a speech by Gromyko at the United Nations 
in May 1947 had included partition amongst the feasible solutions: 
but it had also expressed sympathy for the federal proposal which a 
minority of the UNSCOP members had recommended. Every re- 
source of Jewish influence and statecraft would be needed if the 
springboard of the UNSCOP report were to be used for a victorious 
forward leap. And these resources manifestly included the Elder 
Statesman whose formidable shadow still dominated every scene in 
which he moved. 

In October he arrived in New York invited to join the struggle 
by those who had rejected him ten months before. The official atti- 
tude of the Jewish Agency, expounded to delegations by Sharett, 
Silver and a large band of helpers, had now unfrozen. The public 
support of partition was now official Zionist policy. By mid- 
October it was plain that American and Soviet support could 
be expected, but even then the two-thirds majority was not auto- 
matically assured. Weizmann's role was to make an impact on 
the uncommitted and wavering delegates who were being shaken by 
the strong blasts of Arab pressure. He wished his address to be 
carefully formulated. He knew that it might be his last appearance 
at the bar of the nations. But his eyesight was bad and the work of 



3 J 939-1 949 

preparation agonizing. I find the following entry in my diary of the 

period. 

October 16 (1947) 

Saw Chief after he lunched with Henry M(orgenthau). Worked 
on draft for four steady hours. After each sentence was written 
in huge letters and agreed, he would go to lamp-stand and bring 
the text right to his glasses, endeavouring to learn it by heart. By 
the end of the session his eyes were watering as if in tears. Finally 
he said: 'We'll make this do but how about a posuk (biblical 
verse) for the ending?' We looked for a Bible and eventually 
found one supplied by the hotel in the bedside table. Spent a half- 
hour on Isaiah, looking for 'Return to Zion' passages. Finally 
his mind was caught by the prophecy of 'an ensign for the 
nations'. As I left he said: 'Well, this is it. Over the top for the 
last time! 3 

The delegates of fifty-seven nations listened to him in suspense. He 
was more personal than usual. In describing a previous international 
assembly twenty-five years ago he said: C I came from the council 
room in which the Mandate was ratified with the feeling that the 
most cherished ideals of our own history had been sanctioned by the 
conscience of all mankind.' He made light of Arab spokesmen's asser- 
tions that the Jews were the descendants not of the Hebrew King- 
doms, but of the Khazars of Southern Russia. e lt is very strange 
All my life I have been a Jew, felt like a Jew and I now learn that 
I am a Khazar.' He spoke of the prospect that Jews might be a 
minority in an Arab state. 'I will not discuss whether it is a good or 
bad fortune to be a minority in an Arab state. I would leave the 
Jews of Iraq, of Yemen and Tripoli and the Christian Assyrians of 
Iraq to pronounce on that. Here I would say that this was not the 
purpose for which, under international auspices, we were encouraged 
to come to Palestine. . . . Those of us who made our homes in Pales- 
tine did not do so with the object of becoming Arab citizens of 
Jewish persuasion.' 

He gave friendly delegates a paternal nod of approval: 'I must 
confess the deep satisfaction that I felt after so many years in ex- 
pounding the ideals of our movement to hear so many impartial and 
disinterested nations from the old world and new, from the East and 
West, expressing the spiritual and liberal motives of Zionism with 
such sympathy and understanding.' And in conclusion the reference 
to prophecy: 'The Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover 
the remnants of his people. And he shall set up an ensign for the 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 30! 

nations, and shall assemble the outcast of Israel and gather together 
the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. 5 

But he had not played his last act in the drama. In the next five 
months he was destined to be the primary architect of two achieve- 
ments the retention of the Negev area in the United Nations' plan 
for a Jewish State, and the spectacular recognition of Israel by the 
United States. Two of Weizmann's brightest diplomatic victories 
were to be won from private status in support of a Zionist leadership 
from which he had been officially banished. 

When it became evident that Jewish statehood would be proposed 
by the General Assembly, the opponents of Zionism moved away 
from wholehearted anti-partitionism towards a policy of truncating 
the Jewish area and making it unacceptable to Jewish opinion. Early 
in November the United States delegation, influenced by this cam- 
paign, pressed the Jewish Agency representatives to yield the 
southern Negev to the Arabs. American diplomats even hinted that 
without this concession they would abandon support of the Partition 
plan, which would thus be defeated in the Assembly vote. On 
19 November Weizmann arose from his sick bed and went to 
Washington for a talk with President Truman. When he arrived at 
the capital he was informed from New York that the American 
delegation was going to exclude the Negev from the Jewish State in 
the partition resolution. He decided to concentrate entirely on the 
importance of the Southern Negev in his talk with Truman. He was 
warmly received and plunged immediately into his theme, illus- 
trating it with a memorandum prepared under his direction by 
Eliahu Elath: 

Akaba, which is found on the southern end of the Negev and the 
Red Sea, represents the only outlet for the Jewish State to the 
Indian Ocean, India, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand. 
For the Jewish State this outlet will be one of the important 
routes for commercial relations with that part of the world. The 
Jewish State, in order to absorb the refugees coming from Europe, 
will have to do its utmost to develop its industrial and commercial 
capacities and in this connection the importance of Akaba is 
much greater than just a piece of land on the Red Sea 

Akaba has played an important role in Jewish history from the 
early days of the Jewish Kingdom, and the UNSCOP report 
giving this place to the Jewish State has recognized the historic 
connections of the Jews with this part of the Red Sea. 

Akaba, in the hands of the Arabs, may be a permanent threat 



302 i 939-1 949 

in the rear of the Jewish State. The Arab States have an outlet to 
the Red Sea and the Gulf of Akaba through Transjordan, Egypt 
and Saudi-Arabia. 

Weizmann kept Truman's mind riveted on this point alone. The 
President became fascinated by the unexpected excursion into a 
phase of remote political geography. Grasping the simplicity and 
force of the argument he gave his assent. 

But there was a race against time. At three o'clock the next day 
the Jewish Agency representatives were invited to meet the Ameri- 
can delegate Herschel Johnson in the United Nations' lounge in New 
York, to hear the State Department's verdict against the retention 
of the Negev in the Jewish State. Ambassador Johnson faced Sharett 
and began to pronounce what amounted to a judgment of execution. 
In mid-sentence he was called to the telephone. He told the mes- 
senger that he could not be disturbed and sent his deputy General 
Hildring to take the call. The General returned to say that the Presi- 
dent himself was holding on at the Washington end of the line. 

Johnson leaped to the telephone booth like a startled and portly 
reindeer. Twenty minutes later he returned. Seating himself oppo- 
site Sharett and Horowitz he blushed out an embarrassed retrac- 
tion. 'What I really wanted to say to you, Mr Shertok, was that we 
have no changes to suggest.' Horowitz records the Jewish reaction 
with quiet understatement: 

We sighed with relief. Dr Weizmann's talk had been successful. 
The struggle for the frontiers ended in victory. 

The way was now clear for the final vote. In the desperate unforget- 
table week-end of 27-29 November, Weizmann threw himself into 
the frenzied pursuit of wavering votes.The prospect of French ab- 
stention threatened to disrupt the West European front. In a cable 
to Leon Blum, Weizmann summoned the Socialist statesman to a 
supreme effort: 'Does France really wish to be absent from a 
moment unfading in the memory of man?' On 29 November, when 
the French vote for partition was announced, a gasp of surprise and 
a ripple of incredulous applause rang through the Assembly Hall. 

He spent the day of 29 November in quiet contemplation at the 
Plaza Hotel. When the historic vote was announced Jewish repre- 
sentatives led by Sharett and the veteran Labour leader Sprinzak 
and Shazar, went to his suite and found him profoundly moved. 
That evening at a Labour Zionist rally in Carnegie Hall he raised 
his hands aloft to a cheering crowd in speechless joy. His dark glasses 
concealed his tears. 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 303 

History had taught him that there was never any respite. Every 
victory was short-lived and had to be consolidated at once. A few 
days before the vote he had looked at the map of the Assembly vote 
and found that the new Jewish State had received almost no Asian 
support. Must it for ever live in isolation within its continental 
family? A thought had come to him of startling prescience. He 
had written a letter, almost out of the blue, to Nehru proposing 
scientific and technical co-operation between Palestine and India. 
On 2 December Nehru replied welcoming Weizmann's suggestion 
and inviting scientists from Palestine to attend the Indian Science 
Congress in January 1948. It was the first premonition of Israel's 
integration in the Asian world. 

Weizmann now bethought himself of the Oxford scholar who had 
first propounded the partition solution in the Peel Commission 
Report. Sir Reginald Coupland was surprised to receive an affec- 
tionate cable from Weizmann to which he made immediate reply: 

It was kind of you to think of me at the moment of your victory, 
after so many and such perverse delays. I shall remember my 
association with Zionism as the most interesting chapter of my 
life beginning with that meeting in the little room at Nahalal 
and the best of it has been the privilege of your friendship. 

You have now to impress your State with the stamp of your 
statesmanship so that it can show the world what the Jews can 
do when restored to their historic home, and standing at last on 
an equal footing with other peoples. 

Weizmann intended to spend a few weeks in London to wind up his 
affairs and then to arrive at Rehovoth at the end of the winter. He 
also planned a visit to Asia where he hoped to initiate scientific co- 
operation. During December and January, however, his tranquillity 
was dashed by the news of bloodthirsty clashes in Palestine into 
which Arab 'Liberation Troops' were pouring from all sides to 
reinforce the revolt of Palestinian Arabs against the United Nations 
resolution. The British Administration, formally responsible for law 
and order, was holding the door open to the Arab incursions and 
simultaneously harrying the desperate defence of the Jews. Mr 
Bevin was in a truculent mood. He was going to teach the inter- 
national community a lesson for presuming to reject his advice. As 
it became apparent that the Arabs would not peacefully acquiesce 
in partition, second thoughts began to grip many members of the 
United Nations who had supported the plan. In Washington the 
State Department repented of its good deed on the very morrow of 
its performance. 



304 i 939"i 949 

Weizmann found it hard to believe that anyone could seriously 
envisage a reversal of partition. In his eyes the thing to be won- 
dered at was the inordinate time that it had taken for the obvious 
and logical solution to be reached. In January he continued to plan 
large visions for the future Jewish State. Today, when assistance to 
newly emerging nations holds so large a place in Israel's policy, there 
is something impressive in the foresight which led Weizmann to 
correspond with the Government of Burma, which had invited him 
on 19 December 1947 to pay a visit to their country. 

He wrote to Rangoon on 2 January accepting the Burmese 
Government's invitation. Three weeks later a reply from Rangoon 
proposed the dispatch of Burmese specialists to Palestine for work at 
Rehovoth. 

These communications sound as though Weizmann already 
imagined himself to be involved in the practical deeds of statecraft. 
But many hurdles still remained. The news from the United Nations 
and Washington was bad. The vastest anti-climax in Jewish history 
was being prepared. Having been placed on the threshold of state- 
hood the Jews were going to be urged back into the vacuum of 
tutelage. His friends amongst the Jewish delegation in the United 
Nations made an urgent appeal for Weizmann's return: 

Cablegram, New York, 23 January 1948 
Chaim Weizmann, Dorchester Hotel, London. 

In view worsening situation advise you if possible reconsider 
decision to go Palestine January stop No conditions exist there 
your constructive political activity everything depending upon 
outcome negotiations here Lake Success and Washington stop 
Most crucial phase of all now approaches here in which we sorely 
miss your presence advice activity influence affectionately 

EBAN 

He refused to act on this appeal until it was repeated officially, 
although in less enthusiastic terms, by the Jewish Agency Executive 
in New York. 

He arrived in a snow-covered New York on the Queen Mary on 
4 February. My diary for that day concludes: 

Dined at Waldorf with Chief and Mrs Weizmann. He opened 
belligerently: 'Why in heaven did you drag me to this frozen 
waste when I might have been in Rehovoth?' Told him of our 
danger at Lake Success and our position in Washington where 
not a single contact on high level had been possible since Novem- 
ber. Truman furious wtih Zionist leaders and won't even see 




26 Taking his first Oath of Office in Jerusalem, 1949 




Portraits 




28 At Rehovoth 




29 With his grandson, David 




30 At a Zionist Congress 



3 1 At the Weizmann Institu 




With Toscanini 




33 Weizmann sits for Jo Davidson, Rehovoth, 1951 




34 Mourners at Wei 
mann's funera 
Rehovoth, 1952 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 305 

them. Chiefs contact with President our only hope at UN and 
Washington. Chief decided to seek interview with Truman this 
month. 

President Truman in his memoirs frankly recounts his displeasure 
with the official Zionist leadership, some of whose spokesmen he 
considered wanting in moderation and in respect for his person and 
office. If Weizmann could achieve access and secure presidential 
intervention, the political victory of November 1947 might still be 
saved in time for the State to be proclaimed with unimpaired inter- 
national authority during the early part of 1948. 

It is difficult at this point of time to describe the choking suspense 
in which Jewish life was lived during those winter months. The 
community in Palestine was under violent attack by Arab invaders. 
The British authorities neither protected them, as they were legally 
bound to do, nor allowed them freedom of self -protection as moral 
duty commanded. The Five Power Commission, established to carry 
out the Partition plan, languished impotently in New York, rejoicing 
in the facetious but significant title of the 'Five Lonely Pilgrims'. 
The United States was in full flight from partition. It was having 
every sort of nightmare from Soviet military intervention, to the 
massive influx of Communist agents in the guise of refugee immi- 
grants to Palestine. The Jewish prospect had been incredibly trans- 
formed since the triumph of the previous November. The outlook 
was of political collapse and military defeat. 

Weizmann's discussion with Truman was delayed by his own illness, 
by the President's absence on leave in the Caribbean, and, more 
ominously, by Truman's reluctance to have anything to do with 
Zionist leadership. At last, on 14 March, the opening appeared. To 
Weizmann's suite at the Waldorf came Eddie Jacobson of Kansas 
City who had been the President's partner in an unsuccessful 
clothing store in the so's. He had a remarkable tale to tell. Stimu- 
lated by the leader of B'nai B'rith, Frank Goldmann, he had urged 
the President by cable to receive Dr Weizmann. Jacobson was a 
non-Zionist, but he could not escape the exhilaration of the times. 
And Weizmann was his hero-figure. 

Receiving no positive reply from Truman, Jacobson had flown to 
Washington and burst into the White House on the plea of personal 
business. He had met with a cold reception from his eminent friend. 
For the first time Truman was freezing Jacobson, unfairly, with the 
blasts of his official dignity. In despair Jacobson noted the bust of 
Andrew Jackson on the President's desk. c You admire him, don't 



36 1939-1949 

you. Mr President?' he said. 'Well, my people has its founding 
father too. I admire him more than anyone else. He's old and ill 
and has come all the way, thousands of miles, to see you, and you 
won't see him. It isn't like you.' 

The President looked out through the windows of the Oval Room 
over the rose garden. Jacobson feared that he was going to be 
withered by the storm. Truman turned on him with mock fury: 
C AI1 right, you bald-headed you win. Tell Matt [the appoint- 
ment's secretary] to invite Dr Weizmann here.' Jacobson proceeded 
to New York and gave Weizmann the news. He was a loyal and 
humble Jew, meeting his hero for the first time. 'My feeling is/ he 
wrote later, 'that not another person in the whole world could have 
sold me as Dr Weizmann did that day.' 

In his memoirs Mr Truman tells the same story, but with puri- 
tanical avoidance of expletive. 

On 1 8 March Weizmann arose from his sick bed in New York and 
travelled by train to Washington. President Truman has written in 
detail about this meeting: 1 

Dr. Weizmann, by my specific instruction, was to be brought in 
through the East Gate. There was to be no press coverage of his 
visit and no public announcement We talked for almost three- 
quarters of an hour. 

Dr Weizmann was a man of remarkable achievements and per- 
sonality. His life had been dedicated to two ideals, that of science 
and that of the Zionist movement. He was past seventy now and 
in ill health. He had known many disappointments and had 
grown patient and wise in them. When he left my office I felt 
that he had reached a full understanding of my policy, and that 
I knew what he wanted. 

The President gave his visitor a specific commitment. He would 
work for the establishment and recognition of a Jewish State, of 
which the Negev would be a part. 

The following day, 19 March, was to become known in Jewish 
diplomacy as 'Slack Friday'. Warren Austen, the American Am- 
bassador to the United Nations, addressed the Security Council with 
a sensational request. All efforts to implement partition should be 
suspended. The General Assembly was to be convened in special 
session to work out a plan for temporary trusteeship. The dream of 

1 Harry S. Truman, Years of Trial and Hope (London, Hodder and 
Stoughton, 1956, New York, Doubleday, 1956). 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 307 

Jewish statehood which had illuminated the winter months was now 
to be shattered through the timidity and inconstancy of those who 
had fostered it. 

A frenzy of rage and disappointment rolled through the Jewish 
world. President Truman was, not surprisingly, assailed by' the for- 
midable armoury of invective which Zionism had perforce stored 
up during the dark, long years of failure. The only absent voice was 
that of the man who had the most right to feel betrayed. On Mon- 
day 22 March Weizmann called Eddie Jacobson on the telephone 
to express his irrational belief that Truman would still fulfil his 
promise. The President was never to forget this act of faith. In his 
apartment at the Waldorf, Weizmann organized his plan of action, 
beginning with a clear summons to his people: 'I would now urge 
the Jewish people to redouble its efforts to secure the defence and 
freedom of the Jewish State. 5 

A few days later he addressed President Truman with a reasoned 
argument against trusteeship and in favour of partition. He con- 
cluded with incisive words: 'The choice for our people, Mr Presi- 
dent, is between statehood and extermination.' 

April 9 (Eban Diaries) 

After drafting letter to President, the Chief called me back to 
the hotel. Dave [Ginsburg] had told him from Washington that 
there was some thought in the State Department of asking the 
British to carry on with the administration despite their categori- 
cal statement that they would leave. Chief thought this the worst 
possibility of all. He decided to add a paragraph on the theme 
'Britain must go' and we worked on this till late. . . . 

The new paragraph in the letter to Truman expressed all Weiz- 
mann's pain and despair after forty years of co-operation with the 
mandatory Power: 

I would sound a note of solemn warning against the prolongation 
of British rule in Palestine. As you may know, I have cherished 
the British- Jewish relationship all my life, I have upheld it in 
difficult times. I have been grievously disappointed by its recent 
decline I tremble to think of the wave of violence and repres- 
sion which would sweep Palestine if the conditions and auspices 
of the recent unhappy years were to be continued under British, 
or indeed any foreign, rule. I also know how passionately the 
British people desire the end of this troubled chapter. Should 
your administration, despite all this, press for any prolongation 



3 8 1939- 1 949 

of British tenure, it would mean a responsibility for terrible 
events 

Truman was already in deep turmoil of spirit. In his book The Man 
of Independence Jonathan Daniels has recounted the story of Black 
Friday in the White House. 1 

Truman called Clark Clifford [his administrative assistant] on 
7.30 Saturday morning [20 March], 

'Can you come right down/ he said. e There is a story in the 
papers on Palestine and I don't understand what has happened.' 

In his office Truman was as disturbed as Clifford had ever seen 
him. c How could this have happened? I assured Chaim Weiz- 
mann that we were for partition and would stick to it. He must 
think I am a plain liar. Find out how this could have happened.' 

When the General Assembly convened in April it became evident 
that partition was not going to be killed easily at the United Nations. 
And in Palestine itself it was coming spontaneously to life. As British 
power receded Jewish and Arab authority began to assert itself in 
the vacuum, in rough approximation to the partition boundaries 
except that the Negev was still empty and cut off. 

The Jewish political effort at New York now branched off into 
two roads. The Jewish Agency executive mounted an assault on the 
ill-starred trusteeship proposal. Addresses were made to the General 
Assembly and delegations were mustered to support the principle 
that an international judgment must not be overthrown by armed 
force. The fate of the League of Nations, and indeed of the pre-war 
world, offered portentous support of this theme. If the 1947 resolu- 
tion could not be actively implemented it was essential at least to 
prevent the annulment of its revolutionary principle that of Jewish 
statehood. And while the Jewish delegation pursued this task, Chaim 
Weizmarm, a private citizen in a hotel suite, conceived a daring 
enterprise of his own. 

He would induce the President of the United States to recognize 
the Jewish State whose establishment the United States Government 
was at that moment trying to prevent. 

March, April and May 1948 were golden autumn months in Weiz- 
mann's political life. He had an objective from which he never 
wavered, and he pursued it with zeal. United Nations delegates who 
came to see him on the assumption that he was a 'moderate' who 

1 Jonathan Daniels, The Man of Independence (New York, 1950). 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 309 

would make their retreat easier found themselves shrivelled by the 
fury of his assault. Austin, Jessup and Ross of the United States sat 
down on his hotel sofa and told him how dangerous it would be for 
peace if the Jews of Palestine proclaimed a State on 14 May. Weiz- 
mann replied that he was only a private Jew, but in his view Pales- 
tine Jewry would be off its head if it postponed statehood for any- 
thing as foolish as the American trusteeship proposal. 5 Typical of his 
uncompromising exposition in those days was his talk with the head 
of the French delegation. 

March, 13, 1948 (Eban Diaries) 

Lunched with Chief and Alexandre Parodi. Latter full of doubts 
about partition. Fears that if Jewish State is established its in- 
habitants will be massacred by superior Arab forces. 'How can a 
few hundred thousands of you stand up against millions?' Chief 
replied that numbers are not decisive. 'The trouble with the 
Egyptian army is that its soldiers are too lean and its officers too 
fat. 3 If Jews stood firm they would win through. 

In a wonderful climax Josef [Cohn] put his head round the 
door with a copy of the New York Post telling of spectacular 
Jewish victory at Mishmar Haemek. 

For Weizmann the importance of avoiding a vote for trusteeship was 
enhanced by his secret resolve to work for recognition. No American 
President would recognize a Jewish State after the United Nations 
had voted to place its territory under trusteeship. It was essential, at 
least, to preserve the vacuum. And on Passover Eve, April 23, the 
breakthrough came to the knowledge of himself and of his closest 
circle alone. 

He was due to go to his friends Siegfried and Lola Kramarsky for 
the Seder service. Before he set out he received an urgent request to 
see Judge Rosenman, one of President Truman's closest political 
advisers. Rosenman, like Jacobson, was outside the range of official 
Zionist contacts. But he was a willing victim of Weizmann's personal 
spell. Weizmann went to see him at the Essex House Hotel, as the 
judge was incapacitated by a leg injury. The two men talked with 
quiet concentration for an hour. On emerging from the hotel Weiz- 
mann was tense with excitement. He sat through the Seder service 
in a mood of far-away contemplation, and left early. At ten o'clock 
he gathered his friends about him arid told them of Rosenman's 
report. 

It seemed an incredible story. It contained a massive refutation of 



310 

all the ' hard-headed 5 theories which deny the personal and human 
factor in international relations. The President had called Rosenman 
into the Oval Room and told him quite simply, 'I have Dr Weiz- 
mann on my conscience.' He had not realized on 18 March that the 
State Department had gone so far in abandonment of the Partition 
plan. The President would like to find his way back to the United 
Nations resolution. If the General Assembly session could be sur- 
mounted without reversing partition and if a Jewish State was 
declared, the President would recognize it immediately. Thus forti- 
fied by international legitimacy the new State could fight for its 
survival, not as an unregarded outcast, but as a member of the 
international family. 

But the President stipulated one absolute condition. He would 
deal with Dr Chaim Weizmann and with him alone. It was essen- 
tial, therefore, for Weizmann to stay in America and be available for 
the unfolding of the plan. 

There was a certain pathos in the President's eagerness to regain 
Weizmann's respect. Harry Truman had ordered atomic bombs to 
be used against Japan. He had boldly proclaimed the doctrine of 
intervention in defence of Greece and Turkey. He wielded supreme 
authority for the policies of the non-communist world. His political 
career had been full of tough battles and flexible compromises. Yet 
somehow he was moved to sentimental contrition by the thought 
that an aging Jewish leader, banished from office, might regard him 
as having dishonoured his pledge. 

Weizmann lived the next three weeks in acute expectancy. Events 
moved towards a sharp transition. In Palestine, amidst furious fight- 
ing, the profile of a recognized Jewish authority began to emerge 
over much of the country. At Flushing Meadows the United Nations 
reacted to the American trusteeship proposal with a sharp distaste. 
But in the absence of an alternative solution there was always a 
chance that this would be adopted. There was an even greater peril 
that some Jewish leaders would be intimidated by the prospect of 
military invasion and political solitude into renouncing the idea of 
immediate statehood. 

All Weizmann's efforts were now directed to the second danger. 
It was a strange role for the so-called 'moderate 3 to be summoning 
the Jewish people to the utmost intransigence and tenacity. To 
Meyer Weisgal, telephoning from Nice at the request of Ben-Gurion 
to seek his views, he said briefly: e Proclaim the State, no matter what 
ensues.' As Sharett flew home to advise rejection of Secretary Mar- 
shall's warning against proclaiming the State, Weizmann pursued 
him to the airport with an entreaty, Don't let them weaken, Moshe, 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 311 

it is now or never. 3 A military cease-fire was legitimate. But the 
'political stand-stilP which the State Department was suggesting 
was anathema. For this would impede any new political moves such 
as the declaration of Jewish independence. 

Meanwhile he hugged his secret and waited for its consummation. 
As in 1917 he was without official standing, and yet the key of a 
political triumph was in his hands. 

On 29 April the House of Commons enacted the termination of 
the British Mandate for 15 May. On 7 May a puzzled Bartley drum 
came to see Weizmann with the 'strange story' that the President 
was going to recognize the Jewish State within a week. On 13 May 
Weizmann was on tenterhooks. Would the crucial twenty-four hours 
be safely surmounted at the United Nations? And would the State 
actually be proclaimed? He was frankly nervous: 

13 May 1948 (Eban Diaries) 

I was in the UN delegates' lounge when the Chief came on the 
phone and asked me to come round at once. He had heard a 
rumour that the UN was going to adopt a trusteeship proposal 
and appoint a High Commissioner after all. Was this the posi- 
tion ? If so all was wrecked. 

I said that he need have no alarm. We had blocked trusteeship. 
Since the Political Committee meeting on 5 May I had seen sup- 
port for it dwindling. Gromyko had told me at a party in Trygve 
Lie's home, 'You have buried trusteeship.' The Assembly would 
at most appoint a Mediator, not a High Commissioner,- and this 
would create no juridical fact incompatible with the proclama- 
tion and recognition of a Jewish State. I pleaded with the Chief 
to let me go back to the UN. We were very thin on the ground 
with Moshe away.' 

He sat down and wrote a letter to Truman asking for recognition of 
the Jewish State; Josef Cohn took the overnight train to Washington 
and gave it to the White House. On 14 May a message came from 
the Executive Office that Truman was sitting with Marshall and 
Lovett and deliberating on Weizmann's letter. Clark Clifford had 
telephoned to Eliahu Elath from the White House saying that a 
more formal approach was necessary. Elath, responding to this 
approach, drafted a letter as representative, not of the Jewish 
Agency, but of 'the Jewish State' and sent it in due style and form 
to the White House in a taxi-cab. Before the cab reached the White 
House the news came that a State called Israel had been proclaimed 



312 1939-1949 

in Palestine at a moving ceremony conducted by Ben-Gurion in 
Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, in the General Assembly, Dr Silver had 
broken in on the Committees* debate to announce that the State of 
Israel had been established. 

In Weizmann's suite the minutes ticked by. Jonathan Daniels has 
told how the receipt of his letter in the White House had given 
Truman his chance. The President had summoned Marshall, Lovett, 
Niles, Clark Clifford and a State Department official, to consider 
Weizmann's letter. The meeting had dispersed several times once 
in order to elicit Elath's formal letter announcing that the State 
referred to in Weizmann's request for recognition had actually been 
established. Finally, the decision fell. At 5.16 Truman authorized 
the recognition of Israel by the United States. 

He had kept his word. 'The old Doctor will believe me now,' he 
said. 

The representatives of the United States in the General Assembly 
knew nothing of the President's announcement. They were still 
advocating all kinds of proposals other than Jewish statehood. The 
news of Truman's recognition broke on them like a thunderbolt. 
Ambassador Jessup went into a telephone booth to check with the 
White House and then read the Truman announcement to an 
Assembly now plunged in a pandemonium of surprise. 

Exhausted and triumphant Weizmann sank into bed. Egyptian 
troops bombed Tel Aviv while Ben-Gurion made his first broadcast 
as Prime Minister of Israel from an air-raid shelter. American recog- 
nition came to the embattled Jews of Palestine as an unexpected act 
of grace. They were no longer forsaken or alone. 

As the tumult of Jewry's greatest day in all its modern history 
swept through the streets of New York, Weizmann lay silent in the 
darkened hotel room. The first cables from Tel-Aviv told of familiar 
Zionist leaders now bearing glamorous ministerial titles. But no 
news or greeting reached Chaim Weizmann. A sense of abandon- 
ment and ingratitude invaded his mood. Suddenly , a bell-boy 
appeared with a message from the Palestine Jewish leaders: 

On the occasion of the establishment of the Jewish State we send 
our greetings to you, who have done more than any other living 
man towards its creation. Your stand and help have strengthened 
all of us. We look forward to the day when we shall see you at the 
head of the State established in peace. 

BEN-GURION, MYERSON, REMEZ, KAPLAN. 

He had led Israel for forty years through a wilderness of martyrdom 



TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH 313 

and anguish, of savage oppression and frustrated hope, across the 
sharpest agony which ever beset the life of any people. And now, 
towards the end of his days, he had entered in triumph upon his due 
inheritance of honour as the first President of Israel the embodi- 
ment in modern times of the kingly and prophetic tradition which 
once flourished in Israel and became an abiding source of light and 
redemption for succeeding generations of men. 

Plutarch's life of Pericles concludes with these words : 
He was indeed a character deserving our high admiration not 
only for his equitable and moderate temper which all along in the 
many affairs of his life, and the great animosities which he in- 
curred, he constantly maintained; but also for the high spirit and 
feeling which made him regard it the noblest of all his honours 
that in the exercise of such immense authority he never had 
gratified his envy or his passion, nor ever had treated any enemy 
as irreconcilably opposed to him. 

Mr Abba Eban is Minister of Education and Culture in the Israel 
Government, and President of the Weizmann Institute of Science. 
He was for ten years Israelis Ambassador to the USA and its chief 
permanent delegate to the UN. 



CHAPTER TWELVE 

BRIDGE TO STATEHOOD 

JON KIMCHE 



THE HISTORY of the State of Israel and of the Zionist movement 
that brought it into being is a singular confirmation of Clausewitz's 
celebrated remark that 'war is the continuation of politics by other 
means'. For the most extraordinary thing about the politics of Israel 
has been the division between the international, diplomatic wing of 
the Zionist movement, with which Weizmann's name is indissolubly 
associated, and the strictly Israeli, military wing, led by Ben-Gurion 
and the commanders of the Hagana. 

The overwhelming importance of Weizmann's contribution to the 
setting of the political stage for the show-down out of which the 
State of Israel emerged is universally acknowledged. 

However, all the available evidence indicates conclusively that 
Weizmann played little part in the war, and certainly none in the 
specific preparations for the war against the Arab invaders of Israel 
during the initial period of the formation of the State. Yet, at the 
same time, Weizmann's monumental contribution to the political 
decisions at the United Nations and in Washington also demon- 
strates the separation of the two activist wings of the Zionist move- 
ment in 1948 and ever since. In the crucial business of preparing for 
the war, and fighting it, there was remarkably little rapport, and not 
very much direct contact, between the diplomatic and the military 
wings. Each of them lived, operated, and fought in a distinct world 
of its own, the one for a favourable political decision in Washington 
and at Lake Success, the other for a favourable outcome of the war 
against the invading Arab armies. 

Even when the two wings impinged on each other, as they were 
bound to do at times, it was, as Weizmann said in Trial and Error -, 
the realities in Palestine that dictated the decisions at the United 
Nations. In Israel the only moments of significance in the outside 
world that received any attention were the beginnings and endings 
of the successive periods of war, cease-fire and truce, and the wel- 

314 



BRIDGE TO STATEHOOD 315 

come recognition of the new state by the United States and the 
Soviet Union. For the rest, it was the course of the war that domi- 
nated the conscious existence of the Jews in Israel and of the march 
of diplomatic events at the United Nations in Washington. 

From this Weizmann was to all practical purposes excluded; but 
why? It is too easy and too simple to seek the explanation in Ahad 
Ha'am's contrast of Priest and Prophet, of Aaron the Priest whose 
guiding principle was expediencey and who had to reconcile the 
ideal objective with the practical aim that was attainable, and Moses, 
the single-minded leader who would not abandon the struggle or 
swim with the tide. It was no more an explanation to see the cause 
of Weizmann's exclusion in the transfer of leadership from states- 
man to soldier, from politician to revolutionary, from the man 
of peace to the man of war, from Weizmann to Ben-Gurion. The 
explanation that the passage of leadership was conditioned by Ben- 
Gurion's better appreciation of the mind of the British labour move- 
ment may be partially true, but it also does not cover the crucial and 
decisive reasons for Weizmann's exclusion. 

This was due in the first place to Weizmann's age and infirmity 
in 1948, Weizmann was seventy-five and half -blind and Ben-Gurion 
was sixty-two, at the peak of his intellectual and physical faculties. 
It was due, in the second place, to geography Weizmann was in 
the United States, Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv. But it was not due to 
any fundamental difference in Weizmann's philosophy of Zionism 
from that of Ben-Gurion, or because of any basic division of opinion 
on matters of policy. There was no real distinction between Weiz- 
mann's and Ben-Gurion's attitude towards the British. If anything, 
because he knew them better and had more intimate contact, Weiz- 
mann had become the more critical of the two towards British policy 
and politicians. Both had hoped that it would yet prove possible to 
reach a friendly agreement in which the Jews of Palestine and the 
British would be associated, though Weizmann's disillusionment 
(during this critical final phase of the Mandate) had begun earlier 
and had gone deeper than had Ben-Gurion's. But both deeply sus- 
pected British intentions immediately after the war. Weizmann's 
hopes had been shattered by Churchill's letter of 9 June 1945; Ben- 
Gurion's remaining hopes were shattered by Ernest Bevin's press 
conference on 29 September 1945 when he announced that the 
Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry would be set up. Weizmann 
was convinced at this time that the British were actively preparing a 
new deal for the Arab nations which would be carried out at the 
expense of Palestinian Jewry. 

This mood is reflected in the coded exchanges that passed between 



1939-1949 

the Zionist leaders in Jerusalem and Weizmann and Ben-Gurion in 
London and which the Colonial Office subsequently published as a 
White Paper. Although this is only a very incomplete record, it 
reflects the continuing mood of impatience that had become evident 
at the London conference of the Zionist Organization which had 
been held in August. The Zionist leadership had held their hand; 
they had relied on the weight of their argument and on the justice 
of their cause to move the British Government to favourable action. 
They had produced no tangible dividends. 

Then, on 15 September, confidential information reached the 
Zionist leadership in London that the Cabinet sub-committee of 
which Stafford Cripps and Ernest Bevin were members had con- 
cluded its consideration of the Palestine question. It had recom- 
mended that the White Paper should not be abrogated but that 
immigration certificates should be made available to the Jewish 
Agency at the rate of 1,500 a month until the Cabinet had finalized 
its Palestine policy. On the following day, it was the eve of the Day 
of Atonement, the news was broadcast in Palestine shortly before 
the commencement of the Fast. 

An immediate exchange of opinion followed between the Zionist 
Executive members in Jerusalem and London. A week later, on 
23 September 1945, Moshe Sneh, the Security Member of the Jewish 
Agency Executive in Jerusalem and the de facto political head of the 
Hagana, advised the members in London that he had proposed that 
they should not await the official announcement from the British 
Government but issue forthwith a warning to the British. It had also 
been suggested that they cause 'a serious incident 3 and make it clear 
to the British that this was a warning of what would follow if the 
British did not heed it. There followed an exchange of views between 
London and Jerusalem which the White Paper did not publish. Ben- 
Gurion was opposed to Sneh's proposal for an 'action-agreement' 
with the Stern group. Weizmann was concerned that the Hagana 
should avoid a general conflict with the British. In the end, on 
12 October, Sharett cabled in the agreed code that both Weizmann 
and Ben-Gurion consented to isolated and specific operations which 
would serve to warn the British that the Hagana could disrupt at 
will the effectiveness of Palestine as a British military base. 

What is interesting here is that both Weizmann and Ben-Gurion 
adopted very much the same attitude when it came to the use of 
force as a form of pressure once they had concluded that the diplo- 
matic approach had proved ineffective in persuading the Labour 
Government to accelerate the entry of refugees from the camps in 
Europe. It was, however, the British who loomed largest as the 



BRIDGE TO STATEHOOD 317 

enemy in 1946 and 1947, not the Arabs. The political and para- 
military activity of the Zionist leaders and the Haganah was therefore 
directed almost wholly against the British. So was their thinking, 
their planning, their policy-making and it very nearly led the Jews 
of Palestine and the hopes of the Zionists into an irretrievable dis- 
aster. 

Insofar as Zionists and the Jewish population of Palestine pre- 
pared themselves for the supreme effort, it was first and foremost 
focused on the contest with Britain and, next, on the contest to 
secure a majority at the United Nations for a Zionist solution in 
Palestine. There was neither serious thought, nor serious prepara- 
tion, for a major military conflict with the armed forces of the Arab 
countries. 

The attempt to force the hand of the British by a show of strength 
from the para-military forces at the disposal of Palestine Jewry 
resulted in three impressive demonstrations in which the Hagana, 
the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Group participated : railways, 
police boats, bridges and airfields were effectively sabotaged and 
paralysed at the end of October 1945 and in February and June 
1946. But the operation ended in complete failure. The British were 
not intimidated, only annoyed. Instead of submitting to the demands 
of the Jewish Agency, they arrested the Jewish Agency leaders and 
many of the key personnel of the Hagana, the Irgun and the Stern 
Group. But even the limited operations carried out by the British 
against the Agency and Hagana leadership at the end of June 1946 
had come as an unpleasant surprise. Only the High Commissioner's 
intervention, supported by the GOG Palestine, later averted the 
Cabinet's approval of far more drastic measures against Palestine 
Jewry which Field Marshal Montgomery had proposed. Both Weiz- 
mann and Ben-Gurion had been mistaken in their assumptions. 

This error of judgment serves, however, to underline another 
error of which the Zionist leadership had been guilty in its diplo- 
matic relations with the British Government; first with Churchill, 
then with Attlee and Bevin. As the war drew to its close, and the full 
extent of the Jewish tragedy came to be recognized, Weizmann and 
his colleageus were understandably bitter and impatient. Their 
thinking was wholly preoccupied by the necessity of saving the rem- 
nant of European Jewry. They were in no mood to consider the 
niceties of power politics or the hardships of the British Empire in 
dissolution. 

But to the Labour Cabinet the priorities were reversed. They were 
under relentless pressure at home and abroad. Bevin and Cripps had 
jointly studied the demands which Weizmann had brought to DOWF 



3 l8 1939-1949 

ing Street as soon as the Labour Government had taken office. But 
other promissory notes were now also appearing on the Prime Minis- 
ter's table. For the Labour Party had, in fact, distributed a whole 
handful of 'Balfour Declarations' to expectant, dependent or 
oppressed nations. All expected the promises to be met at once. 

Attlee's Government was quite unprepared for this. One after the 
other the expectant friends were abandoned. Republican Spain was 
the first, then came the others, including the Zionists. In justice to 
the British Labour Government it must be said that they acted very 
much under compulsion. They did not want to abandon the Jews in 
Palestine, or in the camps. But they did not know what to do under 
the conditions where they felt that Arab goodwill and Arab oil was 
essential to Britain. There was, after all, nothing improper in such 
conclusions, for the oil was of immense consequence. Unfortunately, 
Weizmann in these later years had given up hope of a friendly agree- 
ment with the Arabs and, what was worse, the Zionist leaders had 
written off Arab feelings as of no account. In the negotiations for the 
Balfour Declaration, and later in the discussions on the Mandate, 
Weizmann and his friends had shown great insight into the Arab 
situation. They understood that it could not be ignored. But that 
was no longer so, now that the second World War neared its close 
and Labour prepared to take over. The Labour leaders had been 
ably and completely briefed by their Zionist friends to the effect 
that there was no Arab problem. 'Let the Arabs be encouraged to 
move out, as the Jews move in . . .' proposed Hugh Dalton to the 
Labour Party conference in December 1944. The resolution was 
carried and became Labour Party policy. 

This was not much help to the Cabinet when it had to face the 
Palestine problem nine months later. Nor, for that matter, were the 
endless complaints from Zionist leaders addressed to their friends in 
the Cabinet Morrison, Dalton, Greenwood and others. Soon they 
ceased to understand each other; they were no longer talking the 
same language. Weizmann, as one of them put it, had become a bore 
to be avoided. There was moreover, yet another aspect of the breach. 
Zionist 'diplomacy' had been directed almost exclusively at the 
political wing of the Labour Party. The trades unions, which had 
the decisive voice in the councils of the party, had been altogether 
ignored. The Zionists were also completely out of touch with the 
military advisers of the Cabinet. There was neither sympathy nor 
understanding there: the soldiers could not comprehend the Zionists. 

A few months later, Weizmann discussed the reasons for this at a 
small private luncheon in Jerusalem. He had just been to see the 
High Commissioner in an effort to get the Jewish Agency leaders 



BRIDGE TO STATEHOOD 319 

released from detention at Latrun. He had come back discouraged. 
He had not been able to make a dent in the man, he said. Then he 
began to talk about the extraordinary difference he had found 
between negotiating wtih Attlee, Bevin and their advisers and the 
negotiations he had in 1917 with Lloyd George, Balfour, Curzon, 
Milner and Sykes. They had treated the Jewish problem as stem- 
ming back to the Bible; they had been informed and understanding 
even when, like Curzon, they disagreed. But not so now. He was dis- 
gusted with the crudeness and the lack of dignity with which the 
talks with Bevin had proceeded. He felt neither sympathy, under- 
standing nor intelligence. 

But was it only Bevin who had changed? Had not Weizmann, too, 
come a long way from 1917? Was he not now inclined to romanticize 
those men who helped him to his remarkable achievement? Were 
they all he now believed them to have been? My doubts increased 
when I read the last-minute addition to that remarkable collection 
of documents on British Foreign Policy for 1919 in which Felix 
Frankfurter records a conversation in Balfour's apartment in Paris 
on 24 June 1919. Those present were Balfour, Mr Justice Brandeis, 
Lord Eustace Percy and Frankfurter. 

Balfour began by saying that he was distressed and harassed by 
the difficulties of the Jewish problem (of which the Palestinian prob- 
lem is only a fragment but an essential part). Moreover, the problem 
of the Jews in Eastern Europe was complicated c by the extraordinary 
phenomenon that Jews now are not only participating in revolution- 
ary movements but are actually, to a large degree, leaders in such 
movements'. Balfour added that a well-informed person had told 
him only the other day that Lenin also, on his mother's side, was a 
Jew. 

Brandeis corrected Balfour and told him that he had reason to 
believe that Lenin on both sides was an upper-class Russian. He then 
expressed his belief that every Jew was potentially an intellectual and 
an idealist and the problem was one of directing him into constructive 
channels. As an example, he cited his own approach to Zionism. He 
had come to it wholly as an American, for his whole life had been 
free of Jewish contacts and traditions. As an American he was con- 
fronted with the disposition of the vast number of Jews, particularly 
Russian Jews, who were pouring into the United States year by year. 
After he had chanced to read a pamphlet on Zionism he made a 
study of the Jewish problem and reached the conclusion that Zion- 
ism was the answer. The same men who had sought their outlet^ in 
the revolutionary movements would find in Zionism a constructive 
alternative for their contribution to civilization. 



320 1939-1949 

At this point, Balfour interrupted Brandeis in order to express 
agreement, adding: 'Of course, these are the reasons that make me 
such an ardent Zionist.' 

Weizmann, it is evident, never saw Balfour in this light because 
Weizmann would never have discussed Zionism on this level. To 
Balfour's perceptive, cynical and sceptical mind a man like Brandeis 
was much nearer to Edwin Montagu than to Weizmann, and he 
responded in kind. Frankfurter's notes of the discussion suggest that 
Balfour seemed almost relieved that he could discuss Zionism on this 
mundane level, as a lightning conductor for the Jews in the United 
States and a possibly powerful rival to the Russian Revolution. The 
reason why Balfour was so different a personality with Brandeis than 
when he was with Weizmann did not spring from his chameleon- 
like attitudes to different Zionist leaders but from the response which 
Weizmann's approach evoked in him. 

It would be reasonable and natural to assume that the views 
which Balfour expressed were more accurately his real reasons for 
supporting Weizmann than the more profound and high-toned ex- 
planations he was later to adduce. And it is here that the secret of 
Weizmann's success is probably buried. He did not go to Balfour as 
an Englishman, as did Samuel; or as an American, as did Brandeis. 
He went as a Jew, an uncomplicated Jew, and he forced the discus- 
sion on this level; unlike Brandeis, Weizmann did not lower his 
sights. It was this that was the saving grace of Weizmann's political 
opportunism; it was always anchored to this fundamental position 
that no matter how much he had to turn and to twist, to beg and to 
plead, to trim and to retreat, he never lost his dignity as the spokes- 
man of the Jewish people. In other words, it was not Lloyd George, 
Balfour, Milner and Curzon that ranged so much higher in 1917 
than Attlee and his colleagues in 1945; ^ was Weizmann who then 
commanded their respect in a way he did not command the atten- 
tion of Attlee, Morrison, Bevin and Bevan in 1945 and during the 
following two years. 

I have often pondered over the difference of the impact which 
Weizmann made on the statesmen after the first World War and on 
those after the second. From what did it stem? Surely not from his 
person. If anything, he had grown in stature. There were men after 
the second World War who esteemed him as highly as any after the 
first: Churchill was one, Grossman another, and there were many 
more on both sides of the Atlantic. But not in the Cabinet at Down- 
ing Street. The answer, I believe, lies in Weizmann's diplomatic 
method. He was no organization man at any time. His negotia- 



BRIDGE TO STATEHOOD 32! 

tions over the Balfour Declaration were generally conducted 
alone and informally, under conditions in which his personality 
could best expand and make its fullest impact, untrammelled by 
colleagues or advisers. That was also the basis of his association 
with Churchill and Grossman; but not with Bevin or the Labour 
leaders. 

Weizmann's negotiations after the second World War were con- 
ducted in company, often large company, which invariably had the 
effect of shrinking his personality and his impact. If, instead of 
exchanging legalisms and complaints over the green table at the 
Foreign Office, surrounded by Zionist and British officials intent on 
scoring points, Weizmann could have taken Bevin and Gripps for a 
walk round the orchards at Rehovoth, especially in the first weeks 
after Bevin's arrival at the Foreign Office when he was working on 
an idea of making Palestine the pilot project for the development of 
the Middle East, a great deal might have been different. But Weiz- 
mann was no longer in a position where he could play solo diplomat; 
he had to bow to the new Zionist democracy. 

It nearly stifled him. But he rose above it when the time came and 
in his own manner in which he had excelled all his life, he returned 
to his solo diplomacy. He intervened decisively, though not often, 
with the President in Washington, with the United Nations in 
Lake Success. But he did not intervene in the war in Palestine. 
And yet, perhaps the most valuable part of his mantle had fallen on 
Ben-Gurion, who had learnt the lesson of Weizmann's experience, 
he, too, had to prepare for the hour of decision in Weizmann's un- 
orthodox manner. Neither the Zionist Executive nor the Vaad 
Leumi would see that they had to prepare for a war on a much 
larger scale, as 1948 came near, and that it would be a war not 
against the British, but against the Arabs. Ben-Gurion had to take it 
on himself to initiate the necessary preparations and in his most 
critical hour, with responsibility heavy on his shoulders, and with 
that terrible feeling of loneliness in leadership, Ben-Gurion could 
recall Weizmann's example as a spur and a guiding light. Weiz- 
mann had handed him the torch, and that was the greatest contribu- 
tion Weizmann could make to victory. 

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for 
Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel 
hearkened unto him. . . . 

This was Weizmann's contribution to the War of Independence. It 
M 



322 i939~ I 949 

needs no reference in an index, no mention in the record. He just had 

to lay his hands upon his Joshua. He did. 

Mr Jon Kimche is the editor of the JEWISH OBSERVER AND MIDDLE 
EAST REVIEW and author of BOTH SIDES OF THE HILL, the 
generally accepted history of the Arab-Israel war of 1948, and of 
a number of other books including the best-selling SPYING FOR 
PEACE. 



1949-1952 



CHAPTER THIRTEEN 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 



R. H. S. GROSSMAN 



FOR WEIZMANN the proclamation of the State was both a supreme 
moment and an anti-climax. As in the case of that earlier climax of 
his life the publication of the Balfour Declaration elation was 
mixed with anxiety and disappointment. For once again achieve- 
ment fell far short of expectation. The Jewish State was now a 
reality; and, with American as well as Russian recognition granted 
within a matter of hours, its chances of surviving the Arab invasion 
were immeasurably increased. But only Weizmann and his imme- 
diate associates in New York knew by what a hair's breadth the race 
for recognition had been won. Quite literally, on that I4th of May, 
American support, without which the new State could not survive, 
depended on two men Harry Truman, in the White House, and 
Ghaim Weizmann, on his bed in the Waldorf-Astoria. 

The full story of 'the Chiefs' most desperate diplomatic battle 
and most personal victory has been told in a preceding chapter. At 
the time, the strictest secrecy had to be observed. Even when he sat 
down to draft the epilogue to his autobiography three months later, 
he could not reveal the details without which it was impossible for 
his fellow-countrymen to realize the unique contribution he had 
made to their military victory. It was Sir Charles Webster's judg- 
ment that the debt Israel owes to Weizmann's diplomacy is even 
greater than that owed by Czechoslovakia to Thomas Masaryk. But 
was not the achievement of May 1948 even more remarkable? 
Thirty years before, Weizmann was at the height of his powers, the 
British War Cabinet, with which he was negotiating, was at the 
zenith of its Imperial strength, and the tide of history was flowing in 
his favour. In 1948 these favourable factors had disappeared. He 
himself was old, ill and racked by spasms of deep depression. The 
links he had formed with Britain in order to achieve security for the 
National Home now shackled the Yishuv to a ^disintegrating Im- 
perial system. And the colonial revolution was giving the new nations 

325 



of Africa and Asia a sense of affinity not with the Jews but with their 
Arab foes. 

True enough, the Yishuv still enjoyed the staunch support of the 
American people, who sympathized with it as the victim of a latter- 
day George III. But the State Department and the Pentagon had 
always regarded this popular American Zionism as an embarrass- 
ment. Planning the policy of containment, they foresaw that 
America would in due course replace Britain as the protector of the 
Middle East, and they believed that, when this happened, the 
Administration would be compelled to adopt 'realistic' pro-Arab 
policies. Inevitably, the influence of these new American Macht- 
politiker was greatly strengthened in February 1948 by the Com- 
munist putsch in Prague. Indeed, from that moment the man in the 
White House, with his simple belief that he could not let the Jewish 
people down, remained the sole link with the Yishuv, and Weiz- 
mann's contribution was to hold the President to his promise and 
thereby so to strengthen Mr Truman's will that he was able, by a 
rare exercise of his personal authority, to defy all his military and 
diplomatic advisers and accord recognition. 

Weizmann was not a man who yearned for public appreciation. 
Indeed, he often took an impish pleasure in alienating his supporters 
and frustrating their applause. But on 14 May and the days that 
followed, he felt to the full the frustrations of secrecy and the isola- 
tion of his enforced exile. He was keenly aware that his absence from 
Palestine, when his people were fighting for their lives, would be 
misunderstood. But, since absolute secrecy had been imposed on him, 
the justification for his absence could not be given to the Yishuv 
until it was far too late to repair the damage done to his personal 
reputation. 

Yet on 15 May he received a message from Tel Aviv, signed by 
the five Mapai leaders in the Provisional Government, David Ben- 
Gurion, Eliezer Kaplan, Golda Myerson, David Remez and Moshe 
Shertok (Sharett) : 

On the occasion of the establishment of the Jewish State we send 
our greetings to you, who have done more than any other living 
man towards its creation. Your stand and help have strengthened 
all of us. We look forward to the day when we shall see you at the 
head of the State established in peace. 

Two days later it was announced that he had been elected President 
of the Provisional Council of State. In his own words: 

This came as a complete surprise to me: I had not expected any 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 327 

such suggestion to be made for some months to come if then. I 
was deeply moved it is always moving to be assured that one is 
needed but I was also conscious of the shadows already gather- 
ing about the path of our infant State and, as it now seemed, 
about my own, which would run beside it. 1 

The announcement from Tel Aviv cheered him; and his exhilara- 
tion was strengthened by many messages of congratulation, which in- 
cluded touching personal tributes from Felix Frankfurter, Albert 
Einstein and Louis Lipsky. 'Mine eyes have seen the coming of the 
glory of the Lord,' wrote Felix Frankfurter. * Happily you can 
now say that and can say what Moses could not. I salute you 
with a full heart full of glad sadness or, rather, sad gladness. 5 
Einstein's emotions too were mixed: 'I read with real pleasure 
that Palestine Jewry has made you the head of their State and 
so made good at least in part their ungrateful attitude towards 
you.' 

For a few days he was able to enjoy the triumph. But he did not 
relax. Since the new State was still without official representation, he 
sent his friend Eddie Jacobson on the tyth to the White House to 
discuss three items (i) the arms embargo, (2) a loan, and (3) the 
British pressure against the Negev. Jacobson returned to New York 
with an informal message that Weizmann should cancel his passage 
on the following Wednesday because the President intended to invite 
him to Blair House. 

That official visit to Washington took place duly on 23 May. 
Weizmann and his wife Vera drove up Washington's Pennsylvania 
Avenue, bedecked with blue and white flags, to Blair House. On the 
following day he was affectionately received by President Truman 
and repeated the request he had made through Eddie Jacobson for 
a $100,000,000 loan for Israel's development. The request was 
granted. On the White House porch he handed Truman a symbolic 
memento a Torah scroll, the gift of a sovereign Israel to her power- 
ful friend, the first to recognize her in the moment of her solitude, 
adversity and pride. 

On 25 May he sailed from New York. He had planned to holiday 
in London and meet old friends. But Britain was still Bevin's Britain, 
where the new President of Israel could not stay. And there was 
another reason why England was painful to him. On the day after 
independence, 'Baffy' Dugdale had suddenly died in Scotland. 
Niece of A. J. Balfour, she had become the truest and the most 

1 1 take these words from the first draft of the Epilogue to Trial and Error. 



i 949~ I 952 

intimate of all his Gentile friends. London would be empty without 
her. 

On his arrival in Paris, after days of excitement in New York, he 
was once again beset by forebodings, which already centred round 
his future r61e in Israel. We now know that, from the first, Ben- 
Gurion held the view that the presidency should be modelled on the 
British Monarchy, in which the King has no effective power. The 
accident of Weizmann' s physical absence from the State during its 
first days gave this concept of the Presidency some reinforcement. 

Weizmann, in Paris, knew nothing of Ben-Gurion's views. At this 
time he expressed the hope in conversations that the relationship 
between himself and Ben-Gurion in the new State might be modelled 
on that between the President of the Zionist Organization and the 
Chairman of the Executive. On 26 June, in the course of a letter to 
Sharett which ranged over the main problems of foreign policy, he 
observed: 

With regard to the Presidency, I am in full agreement with you, 
that the American model would not suit our conditions, but I do 
not think that the French model is more desirable. I think that 
the middle course approximates to the Czech model. I am not 
thinking of it because I may have to serve as President, but more 
as a general proposition, in the interest of the State. There must 
be some institution not torn by party strife. 

There was no positive response to this letter and in the course of the 
next weeks Weizmann became increasingly exasperated. His fury 
often exploded in letters and telegrams to loyal lieutenants anxious 
to shield him from the shock of disillusionment. Finally, on 30 July, 
he expressed his resentment to Meyer Weisgal: 

Since the establishment of the Jewish State, I have been trying 
to obtain some clear information both about policies and projects. 
I have been telegraphing and writing and so far I obtained no 
satisfaction. In fact, no reply has been forthcoming. Whether this 
is due to bad communications, as I am being told, or to some 
other causes, I cannot say. But I feel that it has reached the state 
that I must take a definite decision. 

From time to time, I get glimpses of a byzantine display of 
power and quasi-military strength but nothing else. As you know, 
these are things which produce no echo in my soul. I realize, that 
we are at war, but it seems to me, that the moloch of militarism 
is having everything and everybody in his grip. As far as I am 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 329 

concerned, this cannot go on much longer, and as I do not see 
any hope of a change, I have decided to sever my connection with 
the office which has been foisted on me ... 

You will I beg of you send a copy of this letter to 
[Sharett] . . . 

This draft was never signed or dispatched, but Weizmann meant its 
contents to become known. He therefore characteristically enclosed 
it in another letter -to Weisgal, which explains that the receipt of a 
telegram from Sharett 'renders the sending off of the letter less 
urgent'. But the mood of depression persisted. 

He was also concerned about the Constitution, but on this issue 
his agreement with the Government is shown in this letter to Sharett: 

My advice would be, not to produce a fully fledged constitutional 
project but have for the time being something very general which 
would serve as a guide in the first two years and let experience 
teach us, what is the best form suitable to our conditions. We shall 
have for the first ten years a very heterogeneous population 
coming from all corners of the earth and it will not be easy to 
assemble them under the cover of one constitution which shall 
be drawn up now after such a short time of our existence. It is 
quite possible, that the very same ideas have crossed your mind 
and you may take mine for what they may be worth. 

But, though he was deeply preoccupied by the problems of his 
homecoming, he was still the man of action, and his main concern 
was still to do all he could for the new State. Ever since his famous 
interview with Mr Truman he had made the fight to foil the British 
Government's plans and retain the Negev one of his main concerns. 
On 7 July he wrote a long letter to Truman, warning him against 
the intrigues of the British Foreign Office and suggesting that 'an 
indication on the part of the American Government to the British 
Authorities in favour of the Negev remaining within the Jewish State 
would go a long way towards stopping the propaganda for the 
detaching of the Negev from the State of Israel. 5 

But Bevin's pressure to detach the Negev continued unabated, and 
on 20 September Eban had to write from Paris that it would be 
only realistic to understand at this moment that at least a partial 
relinquishment of the Negev will be inevitable'. This roused Weiz- 
mann to send urgent cables to his two main White House contacts. 
Judge Rosenman and Eddie Jacobson, insisting that the Negev must 
remain Jewish. 

Another subject which deeply concerned him was the need to plan 



33 

for a new University, now that Mount Scopus was temporarily lost. 
Writing to Dr Senator, the administrator of the University, he 
remarked: 

It is a tragic fate of ours, that our capital and our unique Univer- 
sity should fall outside the boundaries of the State. I am con- 
vinced, that we must begin to think of a second University. It 
does not mean, that we renounce Jerusalem but I think, that in a 
year or two Palestine could do with a second University. ... In 
about two years we shall have r million Jews in Palestine. And 

therefore we could have another University in Tel Aviv I am 

only throwing out this idea for you and your colleagues to think 
about it. 

The reply to this far-sighted proposal was wholly negative: Dr 
Senator felt that the 'strengthening of the Mt Scopus institutions* 
was needed for the 'strengthening of Jewish Jerusalem', and that it 
'would be a serious mistake to propose the establishment of a second 
university for some time to come. 5 Weizmann retorted immediately 
by pointing out that Christianity, as well as Islam, had f a great 
claim' on Jerusalem, and that the existence of the University in 
Jerusalem would 'always be precarious/ 

Weizmann's argument was partially invalidated by the collapse of 
the plans for the internationalization of Jerusalem, but his convic- 
tion that a second University would soon be required has been con- 
firmed by history. 

These months of enforced delay before his return to Israel were 
physically and morally exhausting. He was still confident that he 
had an active r61e to play and he found it trying to concentrate his 
attention either on correcting the proofs of his autobiography or 
even on composing the epilogue, whose closing words are indicative 
of his mood: 

All that is written here is by way of introduction to the New His- 
tory of Israel. Its writing has been for me a labour compounded 
of pain and pleasure, but I am thankful to lay it aside in favour 
of more active and practical pursuits. 

Staying with him by the lake at Glion in Switzerland, I was im- 
pressed both by the stoic calm with which he treated the threat of 
blindness (at the end of the month he was to submit himself to an 
operation for cataract at a single day's notice) and by the confidence 
he displayed that his presidency might well have a determining 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 33! 

effect on the early stages of Israeli democracy. In the Zionist Con- 
gress he had never been a politician jostling shoulders with other 
politicians. Not only had he stood head and shoulders above all his 
colleagues; he had proudly refused to concern himself with the 
detailed controls that normally enable a democratic leader to remain 
master of his political machine. If he was dismissed now and again 
from office, well and good. Without office, his complete personal 
ascendancy was demonstrated even more clearly. But the very lone- 
liness of his eminence was bound to bring its own dangers, now that 
the politics of a real State had been substituted for the shadow 
politics of a mere Congress. Once the Government had been estab- 
lished, he could no longer exert his immense moral authority from 
outside or above its structure. The issue, therefore, of the powers 
which the President would possess concerned him deeply. What 
should those powers be? He knew that he himself was too old and 
too ill to wield effective power, but he did want to be consulted; and 
at this time he confidently expected three things to have the right 
to preside, on some occasions at least, at the Cabinet; to have some 
influence on foreign policy and the appointment of Ambassadors; 
and, lastly, to have access to Cabinet minutes. For a man of his 
eminence and service, they were not outrageous demands. But, as we 
shall see, all of them were denied him. 

As soon as he arrived in Israel, his anxieties were confirmed. He 
had flown home in the first Israeli civil aeroplane, and the initial 
reception by the Provisional Council of State was simple and 
moving. In his welcoming words, his old friend Sprinzak assured 
him that the Constituent Assembly would elect him as the first 
President of Israel. Weizmann replied briefly and calmly, but his 
voice broke as he recited the prayer, 'Blessed art Thou, O Lord our 
God, King of the Universe, Who hath preserved us until this day.' 
And shortly afterwards he left. 

Next day he invited the press to visit him at Rehovoth and spoke 
wtih great candour to the assembled journalists: 

I have before my eyes two types of President. One type has no 
rights at all, except the quasi-rights of appointing the Prime 
Minister and presiding over the Cabinet. The other type, like the 
late President Masaryk, plays a rdle in the life of the country. I am 
certainly not so vain as to think that I am like President Masaryk, 
though I hope I am more than a figurehead, but I certainly have 
no intention of interfering in any way with the machinery of the 
Government. I would like to help, not to hinder. 



33 2 

He had a deep-seated foreboding that he might be excluded from 
the 'role in the life of the country* which he had hoped that he, 
like Masaryk, could play. In one of his first interviews with Ben- 
Gurion he asked if he could see the Cabinet minutes and received 
the reply that the Cabinet must be consulted. On another occasion 
he asked Sharett exactly what his duties, rights and privileges would 
be when the Provisional Government was replaced and he was 
elected President of the State. Sharett replied candidly that his 
importance would be 'symbolic', a word he felt to be an insult and 
never forgot. Soon, however, his relations with the Government were 
established as a regular routine. After the Cabinet meeting on Sun- 
day, the Secretary of the Cabinet, Sharef, visited Weizmann each 
Monday and read to him the Cabinet decisions. But the stenographic 
record of the proceedings was denied to him. It was also Sharef s job 
to arrange visits by Ministers. In the case of his old and trusted 
friends, particularly Kaplan and Sprinzak, such arrangements were 
unnecessary; they visited him regularly. But for other Ministers 
special appointments were made whenever they had anything that 
might specially engage his attention. This routine was maintained 
after he had been elected President and the Presidential powers had 
been defined. 

Denied any effective influence on affairs, his mind began increas- 
ingly to brood over the reasons why this should have happened to 
him. One particular grievance loomed ever larger: he came to 
believe that he had been denied the privilege of signing the Declara- 
tion of Independence. Friends consoled him with the thought that 
he was not the only one absent: others, cut off in Jerusalem, had also 
been unable to sign. One of those who used to visit him regularly at 
this time was Yigal Alon, whose Headquarters as commander of the 
Negev troops was close to Rehovoth. 

He took a liking to me, [Alon writes] and from then on I always 
informed him about forthcoming operations before zero hour and 
also went to see him after the battle was over to tell him how 
things had gone. He enjoyed these visits enormously and he 
enjoyed particularly being briefed by a commanding general. 
After the occupation of Elath I invited him to make an official 
visit and inspect the troops. We made a special journey to Negba, 
where he met all my senior officers, and then to Beersheba, where 
I paraded a mixed force drawn from all the units in the Negev. 
When I left him at Rehovoth that evening, he said to me, 'This is 
the first time I have had the feeling of being Royalty. 9 
After this an intimate friendship sprang up between the old Presi- 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 300 

dent ^and the young General. Alon recalls that, on half a dozen 
occasions, Weizmann repeated his complaint about the omission of 
his name from the Declaration. 'At the time I was intimate with 
E.G. and could easily have got him to act/ Alon adds. 'But when I 
suggested doing this, he always said no. He was too proud. 3 If only 
Alon had been permitted to speak! For this misunderstanding, which 
caused him so much pain, could have been cleared up at once, if 
only it had been brought to the attention of the Cabinet. 

Weizmann seems to have assumed that the thirty-seven who signed 
the Declaration of Independence had been selected because of their 
personal eminence. But this was not the case. In fact, they were the 
members of a body named the National Council, which had been 
set up on 12 April 1948 in order to fulfil the requirements of a 
resolution of the United Nations Implementation Commission. 
This Commission had been charged with the task of forming a 
Provisional Government Council, to which power could be handed 
over when the Mandate ended, and the UN resolution laid 
it down that this new body must be 'responsible to Palestine Jewry'. 
In order to fulfil these requirements, therefore, it was decided that the 
membership of the National Council should consist of (i) the Jeru- 
salem members of the Jewish Agency Executive, (2) the members of 
the Vaad Leumi, and (3) a number of additional members, repre- 
senting bodies that refused to accept representation by (i) and (2). 
Neither the Jewish Agency nor the Vaad Leumi, for example, was 
accepted by the Revisionists or the Communists as representing 
them. When these additions had been made, the total membership 
of the Council came to thirty-seven. But on Independence Day only 
thirty-four of these were in Tel Aviv and space was left on the 
document for the signatures of the three who were absent. 

It is quite clear, therefore, that the omission of Weizmann's name 
was not the result of a deliberate slight. Since at the time he was a 
member neither of the Jewish Agency Executive nor of the Vaad 
Leumi, he was not eligible for membership of the Provisional Gov- 
ernment Council, and it was only after he had been elected President 
of it that his name could be added as its thirty-eighth member. 

Not all the autumn was spent in vain regrets, As his health improved, 
the President reflected that there were two fields in which he could 
hope to serve the young State without being accused of interference 
he could maintain his unique personal relationship with Mr 
Truman and help to re-establish good relations with Britain. Mr 
Truman's dramatic and completely unexpected re-election in 
November 1948 gave Weizmann the opportunity for a letter of 



334 i 949-1 95 2 

congratulation. In this he pleaded at length with the President to 
intervene and put an end to the hostile manoeuvres of Ernest Bevin. 
On 29 November Mr Truman used the occasion of the first anni- 
versary of the UN partition resolution to send a cordial and intimate 
reply: 

As I read your letter, I was struck by the common experience you 
and I have recently shared. We had both been abandoned by the 
so-called realistic experts to our supposedly forlorn lost causes. 
Yet we both kept pressing for what we were sure was right and 
we were both proven to be right. My feeling of elation on the 
morning of 3 November must have approximated your own feel- 
ings one year ago today, and on May I4th, and on several occa- 
sions since then. 

However, it does not take long for bitter and resourceful oppo- 
nents to regroup their forces after they have been shattered. You 
in Israel have already been confronted with that situation; and 
I expect to be all too soon. So I understand very well your con- 
cern to prevent the undermining of your well-earned victories. 

I remember well our conversation about the Negev, to which 
you referred in your letter. I agree fully with your estimate of the 
importance of that area to Israel, and I deplore any attempt to 
take it away from Israel. I had thought that my position would 
have been clear to all the world, particularly in the light of the 
specific wording of the Democratic Party Platform. But there 
were those who did not take this seriously, regarding it as e just 
another campaign promise' to be forgotten after the election. I 
believe they have recently realized their error. I have interpreted 
my re-election as a mandate from the American people to carry 
out the Democratic Platform including, of course, the plank on 
Israel. I intend to do so. 

This warm-hearted correspondence continued for some months and 
was only ended by Weizmann's increasing infirmity. 

Weizmann decided that the best way of restoring Anglo- Jewish 
relations was to invite a select number of friends to visit him at 
Rehovoth and see for themselves the achievements of the young 
nation. To each of them Leo Amery, Walter Elliot, Simon Marks, 
Lord Rothschild, Lord Melchett, Leonard Stein, Isaiah Berlin and 
Richard Grossman he wrote a long letter, full of vivid and en- 
thusiastic decriptions of what he had seen on his presidential tours. 
Throughout that summer he also tried to restore his personal rela- 
tions with Churchill, which had been shattered in 1944 by the 
murder of Lord Moyne. But Churchill had sent no message to him 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 335 

either when the State was established or when he was made Presi- 
dent. In July, after pressure from various well-wishers, Walter Elliot 
had extracted from him a verbal message: 

The Palestine position now, as concerns Great Britain, is simply 
such a hell-disaster that I cannot take it up again or renew my 
efforts of twenty years. It is a situation which I myself cannot 
help in, and must, as far as I can, put out of my mind. But send 
1 Weizmann himself my warm regards. 

Weizmann did not permit himself to be affronted by the offhand 
tone of this message. At once he dispatched a long letter, full of 
reminiscences of Churchill's past services to the cause of Zionism. 
But there was no response and, instead of writing again, Weizmann 
gave tactful instructions that his long letter to Leo Amery should 
be shown to Churchill. Walter Elliot may well have been right when 
he assured Weizmann that this indirect contact had helped, in the 
debate on 10 December, to obtain from Churchill a declaration in 
favour of de facto recognition. 

This was a considerable advance. For, up to this point, the Con- 
servative Party had supported Mr Bevin's Palestine policies 
though in recent months with ever growing reluctance and active 
opposition had been limited to the Government's own benches. 
Weizmann realized that the Labour Government would only be 
compelled to concede this demand when the Opposition abandoned 
its acquiescence and made up its mind to vote against the Govern- 
ment with the Socialist rebels. 

He had not long to wait. The first Negev campaign ended the 
Egyptian threat to Israel; and the second was so successful that 
Alon's advanced units crossed the Egyptian frontier and threatened 
the British base at El Arish. On this occasion the Foreign Office was 
able to obtain the collaboration of the State Department in insisting 
that Israeli troops should at once be drawn back across the frontier. 
Negotiations began at Rhodes for an Israeli-Egyptian armistice. But 
still Bevin remained actively hostile, pleading unsuccessfully with 
the Egyptians to accept British assistance and persuading King 
Abdullah to permit Aqaba to be protected with British troops. 

Eleven o'clock on 9 January 1949 had been agreed for the com- 
mencement of the armistice, and a few minutes later five British 
Spitfires flew low over the Jewish lines in the Negev. They were 
engaged by Israeli Spitfires and one was shot down inside the 
frontier at Nir'am. In the afternoon twelve more British fighters 
crossed the frontier presumably to discover what had happened to 
the missing plane and were engaged by four Spitfires, commanded 



336 1949-1952 

by Weizmann's favourite nephew, Ezer. In this dog-fight, and in 
another which succeeded it, four British planes were brought down, 
without Jewish loss. 

I was staying with Weizmann and returned that afternoon from 
Jerusalem to find him in his study, talking earnestly with Sharett 
and a couple of his lieutenants. 'We'd better tell him what has 
happened/ Weizmann said calmly, and when he had done so 
Sharett added that the BBC had announced that the British Fleet 
was preparing for action at Malta. 'Will Tel Aviv be bombarded 
tonight?' he asked dramatically. I replied, c No! This is good news 
Bevin has overreached himself and this will bring you British 
recognition,' and Weizmann warmly concurred. 

The sense of crisis put him on his mettle. He insisted that I should 
be sent next day to Nir'am to see for myself that the British planes 
had violated the frontier, and also interview the RAF pilots who had 
been captured. All this was arranged within a few hours, enabling 
me to publish a completely accurate indictment of Bevin on the 
Sunday before Parliament resumed. 

For those few days of renewed activity, Weizmann was serenely 
happy, particularly when the news came in that Bevin had been 
isolated in the Cabinet, which, under the leadership of Stafford 
Gripps and Herbert Morrison, had agreed to concede de facto recog- 
nition in the course of the debate, due to take place on 26 January. 
But when the day came and the Foreign Secretary rose to speak, he 
amazed the Commons by launching into a passionate defence of the 
Arab position. After he had sat down, without making the expected 
announcement, Churchill at once announced that he was moving a 
vote of censure and then proceeded to reaffirm his Zionist faith, in 
terms which he had not used for many years and which greatly 
shocked many of his supporters. 'The coming into being of a Jewish 
State in Palestine,' he said, e is an event in world history to be viewed 
in the perspective not of a generation or a century but in the per- 
spective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years. 
That is a standard of temporal values which seems very much out 
of accord with the perpetual click-clack of our rapidly changing 
moods and of the age in which we live.' And he went on to pay a 
personal tribute to Weizmann: 

I was glad to read a statement from Dr Weizmann the other day 
pleading for friendship between the new Israeli State and the 
Western world. I believe that will be its destiny. He was an old 
friend of mine for many years. His son was killed in the war fight- 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 337 

ing with us. I trust his influence may grow and that we shall do 
what we can, subject to our other obligations because we cannot 
forget those other obligations to add to his influence. 

Though Weizmann could not know it at the time, this was the end 
of Bevinism and the beginning of that restoration of Anglo-Israeli 
relations whose speed and completeness astonished even those of us 
who wanted it most. 

In February 1949 Weizmann was still full of vigour, and deeply 
concerned with the development of British public opinion. He took 
part in an exchange with Lady Violet Bonham Carter, daughter of 
Herbert Asquith and still the most prominent leader of British 
Liberalism. Lady Violet is regarded as one of the most formidable 
controversialists in British public life, but on this occasion she met 
her match. 

I think you know how deeply I have felt the tragic wrongs and 
sufferings of the Jewish people [she wrote to the President]. You 
know that I have always tried to fight their battle both in public 
and private life. Yet to-day, alas! I can feel no friendship for the 
new State of Israel. 

Having expatiated on the sins of the terrorists, she then went on 
to complain that 

the first act of the new State of Israel, under you, its great Presi- 
dent, was to declare a general amnesty, embracing 40 members 

of the Stern Gang Israel will no doubt in time be 'recognised' 

de facto and de jure. But it has lost the hearts of all its truest 
friends in this country. 

And she concluded. 

I am sorry to have to write you this letter, but, remembering our 
old friendship and all the hopes and all the sorrows we shared, I 
think it is right that you should know the bitter disillusionment 
some of us are living through. 

Despite his own passionate hatred of terrorism, Weizmann, in his 
reply, conceded nothing. 

I am very sorry [he began] that you should have fallen a victim to 
the campaign of vilification that is now being waged against our 
young State. British people have a reputation of being able to see 
the other side even in times of conflict and tension. There is little 
evidence of this where we are concerned. You use strong language 



338 1949-1952 

about our terrorists and their deeds. Has it occurred to you that 
there might be grievous reasons for the appearance of so unbeliev- 
able and unprecedented a phenomenon as 'Jewish terrorism'? 
The Jews are not a people given to violence. For many centuries 
force has not been our weapon. Our colonisation in Palestine was 
an outstanding achievement of non-violence. 

Having rehearsed once again the provocation to which both the 
Yishuv and the Jews of Europe were submitted, Weizmann turned 
to the question of the amnesty. 

You are annoyed with Israel and its Government for having 
declared a general amnesty which benefited also the terrorists. It 
so happens that I had nothing to do with this matter because it is 
outside my province, although I share the responsibility for it, 
but you are very much mistaken if you think that this decision 

implies any truckling to terrorism or any fear of its agents If 

the Government have now decided to proclaim a general amnesty, 
it is because they felt and presumably had good reason to feel 
that that was the most effective way of liquidating, not the ter- 
rorists, but terrorism. It may be that they were mistaken : only the 
future can tell. But if the assumption is correct that this evil thing 
was the result of a holocaust such as the world has not seen and 
of the heartless policy of those who bolted the doors of Palestine 
against the victims, there may be ground for hoping that the 
normalisation of our national life may eradicate this cancer more 
effectively than savage punishment, however well deserved by 
ordinary standards. The hangman and the jailer, on which the 
British Administration relied for fighting terrorism, have as you 
know certainly not produced results. This is not an age of 
humanists, but speaking for myself I still believe that there is 
boundless wisdom in Goethe's great dictum that if you want to 
change the hearts of men, treat them as though they were already 
what you want them to become. 

On 7 April he left for the USA, aware that he had a real job to do 
there but deeply unhappy that Israel's first President would be 
absent from the country on the first anniversary of Independence. 
Immediately after he became President he had promised Weisgal 
that he would come to the States on 9 January 1 949 in order to be 
the guest of honour at a dinner for the Weizmann Institute, but his 
reluctance to leave the country, emphatically concurred in by the 
Government, was reinforced by his ill-health. As month after month 
went by, the pressures generated in America by the supporters of 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 339 

the Institute grew overwhelming. Weizmann finally saw that he 
had to keep his promise and go, and the Government gave him their 
blessing and placed a special plane at his disposal. 

But parallel pressures had also been building up in America from 
the Jewish community in general. The leaders of American Jewry 
could not be put off, and Weisgal had to give up his prize attraction 
in favour of the central fund-raising organization. A compromise 
was finally agreed on between the supporters of the Institute and the 
Jewish community as a whole, plus the Israel Government; the 
funds collected at the Weizmann Institute dinner were to be devoted 
to the purposes of the new State. 

The dinner was a staggering success. Money poured into the large 
basket in front of Weizmann in an endless cascade of cheques and 
cash. By the end of the evening the extraordinary sum of $38 million 
had flowed from the throng that attended the dinner. For days 
afterwards Weizmann had his right arm in a sling, undone by the 
fervent handshakes of the masses of Jews for whom he coined an 
enduring term the Hinterfolk of the State of Israel. 

Weizmann delivered two notable addresses on this trip. He chose 
the Weizmann Institute dinner as the occasion for giving the stamp 
of his personal approval to the policy of non-identification, which 
was then the official Israeli foreign policy and which has since been 
abandoned. 'A policy of friendship to all the nations', were the words 
he used to describe it, 'whether or not they diverge amongst them- 
selves in other aspects of their policy.' And he concluded with a pas- 
sionate reassertion of the 'deep sense of regional responsibility' 
which he believed that an Israeli statesman should show and the 
hope that 'the Arab peoples would soon join in the common pursuit 
of peace and welfare'. A few days later, he started a great address in 
New York with the statement: 

When our Declaration of Independence was issued, some of us 
in Israel did not know whether we were signing the birth certifi- 
cate or the death warrant of the Jewish State The General 

Assembly had laid down its blueprint for Jewish statehood. We 
were determined that it was to be our Magna Carta. . . . And so 
we went to war. 

He went on to talk with quite unusual candour about the problems 
of immigration, warning his American listeners that, without ade- 
quate assistance, 'we shall be forced to consider the possibility of 
regulating and limiting the flow of new immigrants, if we are thrown 
upon our resources'. But the warning was followed by inspiration, 
and in his concluding paragraph he coined yet another unforgettable 



340 

phrase when he said, 'always and steadily we are narrowing the 
confines of the impossible'. 

His efforts had completely exhausted him. On Independence Day 
he was in one of his blackest moods when he was suddenly informed 
by Weisgal that a great demonstration was waiting to see him in 
Madison Square Garden. Weizmann always suffered from a form of 
stage-fright when on the verge of making a public speech. He had 
always had to be cajoled into confronting a large audience. Now in 
his state of exhaustion, he was more refractory than ever. He angrily 
told Weisgal that for once he was going to let him be taken for a 
liar. But the devotion of the American Jewish masses, to whom he 
had always been tenderly attached, was too much for him. His 
faithful body-guard Joshua rushed in and told him that not only 
was Madison Square Garden itself packed tight 'like herrings in a 
barrel' but that literally tens of thousands of people, estimated at 
about 150,000, were hanging about the streets outside all absolutely 
determined to wait for Weizmann. They had been waiting hopefully 
since morning, not in order to hear the various speakers, but for his 
sake alone. When Weizmann heard this his resistance evaporated at 
once. He summoned up all his physical and nervous reserves and was 
taken to the Garden, where his entrance provided a thrilling climax 
to the greatest mass-meeting in Zionist history. 

Wherever he looked in the political scene there were frustrations and 
personal anxieties. But was there not one area where he could feel 
himself master in his own house? Could he not regard the super- 
vision of the Institute at Rehovoth as the main continuing responsi- 
bility of his declining years? In the second World War, as in the first, 
Weizmann had never permitted his political activities to halt his 
scientific work. In 1939 he stationed himself in Paris in order to give 
his assistance to the French Government. But by February 1940 his 
political instinct told him that something was desperately wrong 
with French morale. At once he sent David Bergmann, who had 
accompanied him to Paris, back to Palestine in order to keep things 
going in the Daniel Sieff Institute. 'Possibly there will be no com- 
munications after the German victory,' he said to Bergmann in a 
mood of acute pessimism, just before he left on his journey to the 
Middle East. But in March 1940 Bergmann received a telegram 
ordering him back to London, and for the rest of the war he worked 
with Weizmann in Britain and America, while Dr Bloch remained 
in charge at Rehovoth. There, as is well known, a most remarkable 
war service was contributed by what was still a small research insti- 
tute, very modestly equipped and desperately short of staff. It was 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 341 

largely owing to the Daniel Sieff Institute that a local pharmaceuti- 
cal industry was established in Palestine, which, after the Middle 
East was cut off in 1940, showed itself capable of supplying 
both soldier and civilian with drugs previously imported from the 
West. 

Though this war work inevitably involved a diversion of energy 
from the proper functions of a research institute, Weizmann gave it 
his wholehearted approval. But before the war was over he had 
returned to Palestine and spent four months reorganizing the Insti- 
tute, planning the money-raising effort and, most important of all, 
making arrangements for the new building and new staff required if 
the Sieff Institute was to expand, as he was determined it should, 
into an institute of pure and applied science that could stand com- 
parison with the best in the Western world. 

The work started extremely well, and if only he had been able 
to stay on at Rehovoth and ensure that the foundations at least were 
built to his satisfaction, much unhappiness and distress would have 
been avoided. But it was not to be. Once again politics forced him 
not merely to leave Palestine but to suspend the close personal super- 
vision which he had intended to give to the development of the new 
Institute. Nevertheless, even during his most harassing political tribu- 
lations in London, New York and Washington, the tension of his 
emotions was relaxed by detailed attention to what was going on at 
Rehovoth. Despite the delays occasioned by a suspicious British 
bureaucracy in 1 947, immigration permission was being obtained for 
new staff and the first of the new buildings was at last under 
erection. 

In March he consulted his business and scientific directors, Dr 
Bloch and Dr Bergmann, about the possibility of an early return. 
When they gave him contradictory advice, he sent Meyer Weisgal 
to make a personal inspection. On 14 April Weisgal sent him a vivid 
description and an unambiguous answer to his question : 

This brings me to the question of your returning home. I know 
how your heart longs for Rehovoth and for your home. I walked 
through your grounds yesterday and I prayed to God that you 
might be given some surcease to be able to return to that beauti- 
ful place and enjoy the comfort of home and the fragrance of 
your gardens. But I am afraid it cannot be done. Every respon- 
sible person I spoke to and I spoke to all of them to E.G., to 
Kaplan, to the High Command, all of them are of one opinion: 
They understand your desires, they appreciate your anxiety, they 
all know what it would mean to the Yishuv for you to be in their 



342 I949-I952 

midst, and yet they think it unwise and imprudent to come back 
at this time. 

Weisgal's letter reached Weizmann at one of the darkest periods 
of his New York exile, just three days before the Passover eve on 
which Judge Rosenman arrived in his room in the Waldorf-Astoria 
with his secret message from President Truman. He was in one of his 
black moods and, in a characteristic reply to Weisgal's letter, he 
wrote: 

It was an absolutely futile waste of time here. I have seen some 
people, but really, it was not worth while for the sake of this sort 
of activity to go through the ordeal of a crossing in mid-winter 
and of being sick, and at the end, to add insult to injury, you 
are not giving ine a visa to come to Palestine. I am still hoping to 
find a telegram when I come to London that I may come, because 
the military situation may improve. This would compensate me 
for all the heart-breaking experience here. 

His letter to David Bergmann, written on the same day (20 April 
1948), is equally characteristic. He thanks him for a detailed report 
about the research activities of the Institute and then goes on: 

My own criticism of it is that it is too many-sided and too much 
for a limited group of people, and unless you have a very con- 
siderable number of collaborators, it doesn't seem wise to attempt 
so many things at once. However, you know best, although my 
experience has shown me that you overstrain yourself and over- 
estimate the limit to which you can go. I would, therefore, advise 
most energetically to curtail some of the work, which does not 
seem to me to be of equal importance or of equal character, and 
from so many subjects one could select some which have priority, 
leaving the others aside for the time being. 

In the weeks following Independence, the invading Arab armies 
came close to Rehovoth and the news that Weizmann received from 
the Institute was both stirring and disturbing. On Independence 
Day itself Bergmann wrote: 

I would have loved to stay in Tel Aviv for the birth of the State 
of Israel, but I had to go home and to organize all the work we 
had to perform within the next few days. The Institute was com- 
pletely silent, only the pumps and the machines were making 
their noise but everybody was in his place and everybody 
means 75 people! (We are now working 7 days a week and 24 
hours a day). At 5 minutes to 4, everybody spontaneously began 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 343 

to move to our physics lab. We have our own wireless transmitter 
and receiver, so that we are in constant touch with the scientific 
department in Tel Aviv, and it was very moving when at 4 pm 
the Hatikvah resounded from the set. Our 35 soldiers (in uniform) 
stood automatically to attention; it was like a wave going through 
the room. 

He continues his report in a letter of 31 May: 

We are shifting the intensity of our work to the night hours which 
so far have been free from air attacks. The windows in the ground 
floor of the Sieff Institute and the doors are protected by brick 
walls so that we will be protected against blast; otherwise, we can 
only hope that the staff will get accustomed gradually to the 

frequent air raid warnings We are fortunate that the Arabs 

are relatively primitive in their technical experience, even though 
they have a tremendous amount of material at their disposal. As 
I wrote you once before, we are very far behind them in long- 
range weapons, and we have very little protection against air 

attacks I often wonder whether we have done right in doing 

in the Institute the sort of research we have carried out in these 
fourteen years, instead of preparing the country chemically and 
mechanically for the most refined of modern warfare methods. 

The references to emergency war work become ever more fre- 
quent in each of Bergmann's successive letters. On 22 June, for 
example, he writes: 

The truce has become a very uneasy proposition; we expect 
nothing from the efforts of Count Bernadotte, and I believe every- 
body is convinced that we will have to go on fighting. Therefore, 
I do not think that we will be able to go back to peaceful 
research for some time to come. There are many questions which 
have to be solved during the period of truce and many prepara- 
tions which have to be made in anticipation of the possibility that 
the war continues. Perhaps in the end it will have been an un- 
necessary effort, but I hope that you will agree with me that as 
long as we are not sure of the future, we must be prepared for 
the worst. The other day the Scientific Department of the General 
Staff had a small exhibition of all the work which has been done 
and of all the things which have been and are being produced 
under its auspices. I think it was a great success, and the Institute 
was very conspicuous. Of course, the number of people who have 
seen this exhibition was very small, and some of the exhibits were 
only made accessible to ten people. 



344 

To this series of letters, Dr Weizmann replied, on 6 August, with 
what for him was an unusual and exemplary control of the passion- 
ate resentment and disapproval to which his young lieutenant's 
reports had aroused him. 

I will not go into all the details of your interesting project but I 
would like to give an expression to a certain amount of scepticism 
regarding the size and the scope of the project. I think you are 
planning too much. You know very well that you will meet with 
very little response on the part of the government even if it is our 
own government. Governments never have much understanding 
for scientific research, and whereas they are prepared to waste 
considerable sums on munitions in buying them from other 
places, they cannot be brought to understand that it is much 
more economical to do fundamental research, which would enable 
them to produce the material on the spot and, in the long run, 
to save a great deal of money. 

Be it as it may, it would take a long time to build up a central 
laboratory and a workable organization. . . . And therefore, my 
advice is for the present at any rate to try and do all you can 
in the buildings, which are ours. I am happy to hear, that you 
have quite a number of good young men and no doubt, under 
your guidance you will be able to train them and bring them into 
shape, so that they may be useful for the future. 

You know my deep aversion to anything which deals with war. 
It is a waste, it is cruel and it does not suit us at all. I know, we 
are compelled in self-defence to do a great many things, but I 
would like you to feel, that I am anxious to reduce it to a very 
minimum. If such a war industry is to be created, it should be 
done exclusively under government auspices. We can help and 
advise and give them guidance, but we must take no respon- 
sibility. 

What damage to the Institute did these emergency wartime activities 
do, and what compensating contribution did they make to Israeli 
victory? Anyone who attempts to answer these questions faces two 
obstacles. First, he finds himself circumscribed by the official secrecy 
with which certain aspects of Israeli weapon development during the 
war of independence are still surrounded. To the present writer, 
however, an even graver difficulty is the conflict of loyalties that 
arose out of this controversy. Yet anyone intent on giving a truthful 
picture of the last years of c the Chiefs' life cannot suppress this 
episode. 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTi 

As soon as he returned to Israel he assumed once again his posi- 
tion as Head of the Institute and soon found that in reality things 
had gone a good deal farther than Dr Bergmann had been able to 
reveal in his letters. Deeply affronted by his exclusion from any kind 
of responsibility for affairs of State, he was all the more passionately 
concerned to ensure that, in his own scientific Institute, it was he 
who gave the commands. But an ironical fate had decreed that even 
this would be denied him until late in 19495 when age and illness 
had impaired his powers of administration and compelled him to 
leave to others the control of the Institute that by now bore his 
name. 

This tragic situation had developed not, as he was wont in his 
last months to fancy, owing to the personal conspiracies of those in 
whom he had put his trust but as an inevitable result of the Arab 
invasion. It is characteristic of the Israeli people that one of the first 
decisions made by the military leadership as soon as the war was 
seen to be unavoidable was the recruitment of a scientific research 
unit from among the young scientists in Jerusalem. Of course the 
Haganah had always had access to Israeli scientists. In 1936, for 
example, its commanders had asked Weizmann for a chemist who 
could help them to produce on the spot an effective high explosive. 
At the time, all they had was dynamite, which, owing to sweating, 
was dangerous in the climate of Palestine. Weizmann detailed David 
Bergmann to do the work and he proceeded to recruit four other 
members of the staff. 

The work was done outside the Institute and the details were not 
known to Weizmann. Nevertheless, in 1939 Bergmann was instructed 
to bring to Paris the sample of the new explosive they had developed, 
so that it could be shown to the French authorities. Later, when the 
Middle East was cut off from Britain the Institute, as we have seen, 
was devoted almost entirely to war production ; and the return of 
normal research inaugurated by Weizmann in 1944 had scarcely 
been launched when the Haganah leadership was faced with the 
imminent threat of Arab invasion. Moreover, in the spring of 1948 
Mount Scopus had been seized by the Arabs and the scientific 
departments of the Hebrew University were in disarray. It was 
inevitable, therefore, that the military scientific research unit, which 
was forced to leave Jerusalem when it had scarcely been established, 
should migrate to Rehovoth. For there were available not only the 
laboratories of the Sieff Institute and to some extent those of the 
neighbouring agricultural research station. In addition, the first 
building of the Weizmann Institute was nearing completion, though 
it was still unable, owing to lack of equipment, to sustain normal 



34 6 1949-1952 

research. The Israeli Army therefore took the unfinished building 
over, in addition to the laboratories of the Sieff Research Institute, 
which were soon teeming with soldier scientists. 

How this take-over was made is vividly recalled by a distinguished 
scientist, now a Professor at the Weizmann Institute but in 1948 a 
junior research worker in the Sieff Institute, with a far higher rank 
and more responsible status in the Haganah. I was working/ he 
writes, *on a problem utterly remote from war, and I can recall how 
little impact the partition decision of November 1947 made on my 
daily life. At the Haganah headquarters we knew of the danger that 
impended and I was concerned that it had no effect on my daily 
work. I knew that the Institute was an important target and posed 
a tremendous security problem. Camouflage against aerial attack 
was almost impossible and it was wide open to ground attacks from 
the Arab village of Bi'Salim and, farther off, from Ramleh. Sur- 
rounded by orange groves, it provided an ideal objective of surprise 
attacks. I can remember the day in February 1948 when the man- 
datory power withdrew and we realized we were on our own. That 
morning information reached us that Iraqi troops had seized the hills 
surrounding the Institute. At once we began to build fortifications 
around the town and the Institute, which included strongpoints on 
the roof of the new building. In March the first groups of young 
scientists arrived from Jerusalem and I remember how Dr Bergmann 
called me on the phone and told me that the Institute would be 
transformed into a military scientific centre. I was left with the 
alternatives of going on active service or staying at the Institute for 
active scientific duty. But the choice was made for me. I remained at 
the Institute. The place started buzzing day and night. Chemical 
problems were tackled hastily; products were confiscated or aban- 
doned; stores were assembled from various places; pilot plants were 
organized in different corners of the new building. Every inch was 
used and the whole area resounded with the explosions of new 
weapons and experimental mixtures. My war-time experience at the 
Institute, however, only lasted for a few weeks. Then I was sent to 
another unit near Tel Aviv and only returned when the war was 
over.' 

The story is taken up by another scientist, who arrived at the 
Institute in the summer of 1948. After four years as a British artillery 
and staff officer in the Far East, he had taken his chemistry finals at 
Oxford that June and a few weeks later found himself a member of 
the military research unit at Rehovoth. * We were housed', he writes, 
'as a self-contained military unit, using the classrooms of the agri- 
cultural college across the road from the Weizmann Institute as 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 347 

dormitories, storerooms and offices. We ate in soldiers' canteens in 
Rehovoth, either walking back and forth or hitching rides on military 
transport. When I arrived, Rehovoth was quite near the front 
line. There were still air raid alarms and infrequent air raids. 
The canteens where we ate were often filled with soldiers going 
off to battle or returning from it. This was our only contact with 
war. 

6 Our research was done by small groups in different sheds, stores 
and outhouses and in parts of the as yet unfinished Weizmann Insti- 
tute building, which was covered with a camouflage net of eucalyptus 
leaves. Since many of the new recruits were somewhat unskilled and 
often over-enthusiastic, the number of fires and serious accidents was 
quite high. There was no shortage of laboratory equipment, since 
much of the Weizmann Institute's new equipment had arrived in 
large crates and was available to us. 

'These incidents, the lavish use of equipment and the general high 
spirits were looked on with some disfavour by the old staff of the 
Sieff Institute, most of whom had been trained in the strict discipline 
of German science and were continuing their peace-time research. 
The unit's first task was to produce stop-gap solutions to many 
problems. But, as conventional weapons became more readily avail- 
able, the research became more abstract and much of it a some- 
what impractical attempt to lay the foundations of military science 
with theoretical studies of ballistics, communications and electronic 
controls. 

'None of this, however, had any influence on later developments 
at the Institute. When the unit was finally disbanded, the physicists 
were released to go abroad for study; the engineers were transferred 
elsewhere and most of the rest of us were asked to join the Weizmann 
Institute and now form the core of the senior staff. Most of us, when 
released from military discipline, settled down to do Ph.Ds set by 
our supervisors and have continued in these or related fields. Very 
few of us managed to complete our formal education. Many were 
granted all sorts of exemptions in their finals and yet the standard of 
their later work was, I think, appreciably higher and certainly more 
imaginative than that of the regular science students who went 
through university in the usual way after the war. In compar- 
ing these veterans with later generations at the Institute, I think 
their broader outlook and ability to cope with major scientific 
problems was born of the responsibility suddenly thrust on them in 
1948.' 

To these two impressions, provided by present members of the 
Institute, it may be useful to add some examples of the actual scien- 



348 1949-1952 

tific problems which were dealt with at Rehovoth by the military 
research unit. 1 

(1) It seemed a simple task to produce large quantities of sterile 
saline (physiological salt solution) for injections to wounded soldiers; 
but nobody had any experience with the phenomenon of pyrogens, 
toxic substances formed in the course of sterilization, and a group of 
young biologists and biochemists had to work day and night to find 
a solution to the problem of pyrogen-free saline. 

(2) Very soon, it became clear that the quantities of morphium 
available in the country would not be sufficient for the rapidly 
increasing needs of the armed forces, and it became imperative to 
produce a synthetic substitute. It had just become known that this 
problem had been solved elsewhere by the discovery of Methadon. 
One of the young scientists who had come to Israel not very long 
before and occupies today a very important position in Israeli 
science was given as his first task the elaboration of a practical 
method for the synthesis of Methadon. He solved the problem satis- 
factorily. 

(3) The problem of emergency rations was one of prime import- 
ance. In Israel it was more difficult to solve than in other countries 
because of the lack of certain foods, particularly animal proteins, 
which under the Mandate had been largely imported. A solution 
was sought along the lines of one of the studies to which Weizmann 
had devoted some effort before and during the second World War. 
Plant proteins which were relatively easily accessible were digested 
by the proteolytic enzymes of yeast and converted in to a soluble 
mass which in flavour and in nutritional value approached, at least, 
the unavailable meat. The ingenious solution devised for this problem 
was one of the favourable exhibits for occasional visitors to the 
laboratories. 

(4) The British blockade had made the acquisition of aircraft fuel 
extremely difficult and attempts were made to produce a substitute. 
Here the size of the problem was undoubtedly underestimated. How- 
ever, the solutions proposed were rather interesting; they resulted in 
a memorandum on aircraft fuel production submitted to the Israel 
Ministry of Defence and from the scientific point of view in some 
good publications. 

Two methods were proposed, (a) There was available in the coun- 
try in relatively large quantities a by-product of the citrus industry, 
limonene. This compound could be converted by a simple method 
into cymene, an aromatic hydrocarbon which was known to have a 

1 In order to ensure accuracy and avoid breaches of security, this passage 
has been submitted to the Israel Ministry of Defence. 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 349 

very high (about 140) octane number and therefore could be used to 
improve the qualities of the rather bad gasoline available for 
motor cars. (6) There existed some indications that the German 
tanks in the Africa campaign had used methyl isobutyl ketone to 
improve their fuel. This compound can be made from acetone, and 
a process was worked out on a pilot plant scale for the production of 
that ketone; the process could be combined successfully with the 
production of limonene. This method seemed so promising that the 
conversion of the alcohol-producing plants in the country into plants 
for the fermentative production of acetone was seriously considered. 

(5) One of the first units to be established was the electronics 
group; it was suitably housed in the part of the Weizmann Insti- 
tute which was destined for the electronic computer. In this large 
hall, the foundation was laid for the present electronics section of 
the Ministry of Defence which can be considered as one of the best 
scientific groups of the country. In fact, this group had already 
carried out successfully a major task; it had constructed and com- 
missioned the first Israeli radio station, which was ready in time for 
the first broadcast of the Prime Minister and for the first perform- 
ance of the Hatikvah. 

(6) Not less serious than the complete absence of experience in 
electronics at the outbreak of the War of Independence was the fact 
that the country was not able to produce the classical explosives and 
propellants (gunpowder). Thus, one group had to adapt the existing 
know-how on a very ineffective type of explosive, the Gheddites, to 
the problems at hand. These explosives are based on potassium 
chloride, one of the few materials abundantly available in the coun- 
try. Thus the first plastic explosives were designed and produced. 

Even more serious was the situation with regard to propellant 
powders. In this field, it became apparent that a fundamentally new 
approach had to be made, and it was decided to begin the develop- 
ment of rockets based on synthetic propellant compositions. A large 
effort was devoted to this problem: a group of physicists worked on 
its theoretical aspects some of them, who are today in high posi- 
tions in civilian science, will perhaps not want to remember that this 
was the beginning of their scientific career and a number of 
chemists began to develop then what is now considered one of the 
major achievements of Israeli applied science, the synthetic rocket 
propellant. 

Now that it can be seen in retrospect and without the exaggeration 
of partisan controversy this record of the Institute's contribution to 
the military victory is impressive enough. But at the time the reality 



350 i 949-1 952 

of the scientists' achievements was inflated by the myths of friend 
and foe alike. The secret weapons that Arab rumour was constantly 
ascribing to the Jewish armies had a disastrous effect on the morale 
of their own civilians and soldiers. Who can forget how Safad was 
saved from what in military terms was unavoidable surrender by a 
panic fear of a Jewish atomic cannon, which in sober truth was 
nothing but a home-made mortar? And, on a larger scale, the sink- 
ing of the Egyptian flagship with all hands and in a few minutes was 
quickly ascribed throughout the Arab world to yet another secret 
product of Dr Weizmann's armoury at Rehovoth. 

There was a similar process of myth-making among Israel's 
friends. Before 1948 the Yishuv had scarcely heard of the Research 
Institute at Rehovoth; it was widely assumed that, as practical men, 
with no time for theories, they would have to rely on the Jewish 
scientists of the Diaspora. It was in the war of independence that 
many Israelis realized for the first time how essential science was to 
their survival. Perhaps it was a pity that the lesson which brought 
this home to them was a legend about the secret weapons produced 
by what was later to become the Weizmann Institute. Nevertheless, 
it remains true that this legend did much to popularize the Institute 
among the Yishuv and to deepen the respect it felt for Dr Weiz- 
mann's scientific powers. 

Moreover, the work of the military research unit had important 
material advantages for the Institute. Thanks to these activities, the 
new buildings, half -finished at the outbreak of war, were completed 
as a matter of urgency. Staff who would otherwise have been 
dispersed were retained and increased by a notable influx of 
young men. As a result, the Institute emerged from hostilities with 
its manpower, its buildings and its popular image all enhanced. 

Alone in Israel, Weizmann really understood both politics and 
science. Unlike his academic colleagues, he appreciated that politics 
is the art of the second best and never demanded the impossible of 
the men with whom he worked. But, unlike the politicians, he appre- 
ciated that in science nothing but the best is of any avail, and he was 
determined, whatever it cost him, to exclude from his Institute those 
political and governmental influences which would lower scientific 
standards in the name of practical expediency. If Rehovoth was to 
be the home of a Jewish scientific research unit equal to the best in 
the Western world, then the Weizmann Institute must be liberated 
from the governmental influences which in war time had inevitably 
taken over control of its activities. To this task of achieving his 
Institute's complete independence he devoted a major part of the 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 35! 

last energies available to him. Never again was he to have such 
physical strength or sustained powers of concentration as he showed 
in the months of 1949 whose climax was reached when on 2 Novem- 
ber the new Institute of Physics and Physical Chemistry was dedi- 
cated and the cornerstone was laid of a new Institute for Biology and 
Biochemistry. It was with special pleasure that Weizmann must have 
listened to the following passage in the speech of Professor Brodetsky, 
President of the Hebrew University: 

It is very significant that in the State of Israel the President of the 
State is also the person so completely identified with scientific 

research The scientist often has the feeling that the results of 

his work are afterwards exploited and prostituted by the politi- 
cian. ... I know that in the State of Israel the chief aim is peace. 
The fact that our President Weizmann is also the scientist Weiz- 
mann means that we can expect that the Weizmann Institute, 
together with the other great institutions of learning in Israel, will 
serve the people of Israel as well as humanity, in the interest of 
the peaceful co-operation of all mankind. 

The significance of the occasion enabled David Ben-Gurion, too, to 
express his deepest feelings about Weizmann. In an obviously sincere 
and moving speech he summed up Weizmann's qualities by referring 
to the 'Crown of Wisdom and the Crown of Dominion' as being 
rightfully his. 

Weizmann replied in language whose magnanimity and wisdom 
can only be appreciated in terms of the controversy that had gone 
before: 

You will all no doubt have asked yourselves, What is the purpose 
of the Institute? It is a fundamental question. We here in 
Rehovoth are primarily engaged in pure research. If, as a result 
of our research into, say, foodstuffs, soils, pharmaceuticals, and 
cogent related projects, practical application becomes possible, we 
are only too happy. But we do not start out with the thought of 
making discoveries. 

We have been working steadily, without let or hindrance. In 
fact, as already mentioned, the Institute was actually in operation 
and able to play its part in last year's War of Independence long 
before the building was completed. Our scientists and the scien- 
tists of the Army of Israel were able to use the facilities then 
available to contribute a vital chapter to the magnificent epic of 
resistance. 

We live, as you know, in a pioneering country. We are pioneer- 
ing in the wilderness, in agriculture, and in industry. But here in 



352 * 949-t 95* 

Rehovoth we are also engaged in a peculiar kind of pioneer work 
we are pioneering in Science. There are many problems to be 
solved in our land, many difficulties to be overcome. There are 
also many dangers still to be met. But to meet them, we must not 
rely only or chiefly on physical force. We have a mighty weapon 
which we must utilize with ingenuity and skill, with every means 
available to us. Science is that weapon, our vessel of strength 
and our source of defence. 

Though none knew it at the time, this was the last great personal 
declaration that Weizmann was to make. A few days later the occa- 
sion of his 75th birthday was celebrated in London by a great 
dinner, at which Field Marshal Smuts was the chief speaker. In a 
remarkable concluding passage, Smuts said: 

We are passing through a tragic period such as perhaps has no 
parallel in history. It reads like some tragic Odyssey, not of one 
man but of man, of the human race Mankind . . . stands per- 
plexed and confused before the future, with no clear light upon 
the way before it. It is at such a time . . . that we may derive com- 
fort and guidance from the case of Israel. . . . The soul, spiritual 
force, is the answer to the machine. What little Israel could 
achieve, in spite of Hitler, and against almost unimaginable odds, 
surely this Western world of ours may achieve on its larger scale. 
The unconquerable reserve of man is his will to victory, his deter- 
mination to win through at all cost. And once the peoples of the 
West make up their mind to sacrifice minor comforts and benefits 

... the wide prospect of fulfilment will stretch out before them 

Such an all-out effort was made here in the Battle of Britain, and 
repeated in the resurrection of Israel in Palestine. I bracket them 
together as among the human highlights of our epoch. Let us 
repeat that supreme effort and our European civilization will 
enter upon perhaps its most glorious epoch of history. We thank 
Israel for having once more reminded us of that last, that only 
way to salvation. And especially do we think of Chaim Weizmann 
tonight in honour and gratitude for his great leadership and in- 
spiration to the world looking for leadership and inspiration. 

It was a fitting tribute by the greatest philosopher statesman to the 
greatest scientist statesman of our century. 

After the inauguration of the Weizmann Institute, the shadows 
thickened fast. Even in the life of a statesman there are periods 
which should remain closed to the public eye because they contain 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 353 

nothing of political significance and much whose publication would 
be painful. Such a period is that between his 75th birthday on 27 
-November 1949 and his death almost exactly two years later. There 
were times of positive happiness, especially when the school holidays 
came round and he could enjoy the presence of his grandson. There 
were also days of sad serenity, when he sat on the terrace looking out 
to the Jerusalem hills and, in the presence of a trusted friend, re- 
counted ever more slowly, his favourite stories or brooded quizzically 
sometimes with a flash of his old intellectual ferocity over the 
past. One of Weizmann's stories, contributed by Mr Sharef, will 
describe, more aptly than any biographer, the last phase of his life. 
He had been asking Sharef about the attitude of the sabra to the 
older generation. 'What do these young people think of us? 5 he 
asked. 'How do they talk about the old Zionists? What do they say 
of me?' Taken aback by the question, Sharef replied that nobody 
associated him with any single group. In their minds he was in a 
class by himself. To this Weizmann replied: *I would like to tell you 
something that happened to me. In 1931, after the Zionist Congress 
at which I had not been re-elected as President (he would often 
bring up this fact reproachfully), the movement was short of funds 
and I was asked to travel to South Africa. I went. After the tour had 
ended, Mrs Weizmann and I, together with a guide, visited Kruger 
National Park. At one of our stops, I saw a buffalo resting in the 
shade of a rock. I asked the guide, 'Why is the buffalo sitting there?' 
He explained to us that buffaloes travel in herds and that, when one 
grows old, he is forced out of the herd. When an old bull has been 
rejected by the herd, he looks for a place in the shade of a tree or a 
rock. There he lies, no longer going in search of food but waiting 
patiently for death to overtake him. As we were talking, a herd of 
buffalo passed by, not far from the old bull. He raised his head as 
if to call them. A pair of young bulls paused for a moment, turned 
their heads towards the old buffalo, and then went on. I saw a world 
of sadness in the eyes of the old buffalo ' 

Weizmann's was not a forgiving nature. He was unable either to 
show magnanimity to those colleagues whom he wrote off as clerks 
and subalterns or to feel any confidence that they could manage 
without his supreme direction. In the first months after his return to 
the country, he was mentally and physically capable of taking an 
active part in public affairs: after that the decline of his health 
excluded anything but spasmodic and irregular interventions. Yet to 
his dying day he girded against his r61e as presidential figurehead. 
He had always been moody; but in these last months, as one of his 

N 



354 1949-1952 

doctors put it, 'the changes of mood were linked with the ups and 
downs in his physical health and his illness took on ever more obses- 
sive forms'. Increasingly he felt himself a captive and on more than 
one occasion talked about himself as 'the prisoner of Rehovoth'. 

To what extent was this prison without bars, in which he felt him- 
self confined, created by the Government's decision to make his 
office symbolic and to what extent was it an imaginary product of 
his own frustrations and physical infirmities? Looking back now, it is 
difficult to blame the Government for excluding him from any effec- 
tive power. In the circumstances they could justify their action by 
the state of his health. But it is also true that, if he had returned to 
Israel strong and vigorous, the case for excluding him would have 
been even stronger. 

For between the President and the Prime Minister there had 
grown up a certain tension. It was to grow less and less, and ulti- 
mately to dwindle away altogether, but at this time it had both per- 
sonal and political roots. After Independence Day the personal 
friction between the two men was aggravated by differences of 
political emphasis. At first the Government's adherence to non- 
identification left little for Weizmann to criticize in its foreign policy. 
As passionate as Ben-Gurion in his opposition to Bevin and his 
determination to retain the Negev, Weizmann at this time found 
himself surprisingly in accord with such young activists as his 
nephew Ezer Weizmann and Yigal Alon. Before they got to know 
him, they had been inclined to write him off as 'pro-British 5 and 
'pacifist*. But, when they became frequent visitors to Rehovoth in 
the winter of 1948, the old President impressed both of them as a 
man of action, who understood the need for backing diplomacy with 
military strength. 

Yet Weizmann continued to envisage the future of Israel in the 
old terms of 'a Middle Eastern Switzerland' and to regard non- 
identification as the only method not merely of continuing the flow 
of refugees from behind the Iron Curtain but also of breaking down 
Arab opposition. Before Abdullah was murdered, Weizmann was 
convinced that the King and he if the politicians on both sides had 
given them a free hand could have achieved an understanding 
between Jordan and Israel; and he blamed the Government for for- 
bidding him to attempt a personal approach to the Court of Amman. 
He was equally critical of Ben-Gurion's decision that the Israeli vote 
should be cast in favour of United Nations action against North 
Korea. It was not that he was blind to Communist aggression. But 
Weizmann shared Pandit Nehru's philosophy. He believed that, 
whereas Israel's military strength was bound to be insignificant, the 



THE PRISONER OF REHOVOTH 355 

new Jewish State might well develop an important role in the cold 
war as a mediator, unattached to either side. 

Would it be fair, therefore, to claim, as some of his friends do, that 
there existed a Weizmannite peace policy, which could be regarded 
as a true alternative to the activism of Ben-Gurion? The factual 
answer to this question is that, after he became President, he had 
neither the political opportunity nor the physical strength to develop 
a constructive foreign policy. But there can be little doubt that, with 
good health and a measure of presidential power, he would have 
evolved an alternative that would have brought him into conflict 
with Ben-Gurion. The constitutional decision to make the President 
powerless was not taken on its merits but as a precaution against an 
otherwise inevitable clash between two great and completely incom- 
patible personalities, the first President and the first Prime Minister 
of Israel. 

It was because he knew that Ben-Gurion had foreseen this peril 
and coolly taken steps to prevent it that Weizmann could never 
acquiesce in his r61e of constitutional monarch. If he had been able 
to do so, he would not only have enjoyed happiness in his declining 
years but exerted the kind of influence on public affairs which an 
experienced King in Scandinavia or Britain builds up over the 
years. But it was not to be. After a life of political struggle, what he 
cared about was not advice and influence, but effective power, and 
that was not forthcoming. He had accepted the ceremonial duties of 
a Presidency that made its holder impotent to champion the policies 
in which he believed. 

After his death, those policies suffered a rapid and progressive 
decline. Instead of pursuing non-identification between the warring 
blocs, the Government sought to attach Israel to such Western 
organizations as NATO and the Common Market; built up the 
nation's military strength by an intimate alliance with France; and, 
in the Sinai campaign, collaborated with Britain in an attempt to 
overturn Colonel Nasser. The mature, internationalist aspects of 
Zionism that Weizmann personified were gradually ousted by a 
youthful Israeli nationalism that sometimes brought the new State 
into conflict not only with the United Nations and international law 
but with the traditional Zionist ideas of the Diaspora. 

Yet Weizmann's ideas live on in Israel and there may well come a 
day when leaders inspired by them will once again be needed to 
rescue the nation from an isolation imposed by the self-centred use of 
military power. Meanwhile the home of the 'prisoner of Rehovoth' 
has achieved the symbolic significance that the Government tried 
unsuccessfully to give it in 1948. 
N* 



356 

As long as he lived, Weizmann refused to be a constitutional 
monarch. An ironic fate has decreed that, lying in his grave in 
Rehovoth, he should play in death the role he refused so stubbornly 
to play when he was alive. 

Mr R. H. S. Grossman is one of Britain's foremost parliamen- 
tarians, authors and political commentators. He was a member 
&f the Anglo-American commission of inquiry on Palestine in 
ig^6 and has stayed in the country on extended visits many times 
since. 



INDEX 



Abdulla, Emir, 190, 193 

Abdullah, king of Jordan, 335, 354 

Aberson, Zvi, 23, 24 

acetone. See Weizmann process 

AoUer, Dr. Cyrus, 219 

Adler, Nahurn, 99 

Agricultural Research Station, Yavne, 
116, 122, 233 

Ahad Ha' am (Asher Ginsberg): influ- 
ence and views, 22, 25, 26,' 72, 84, 
102, 133-5, 147, 149, 197, 207, 315; 
friendship with W., 31, 35, 37, 104, 
159, 165, 198; 'Slavery in the Midst 
of Freedom', 102 

aircraft fuel, 348 

Aleichem, Sholom, 71, 72, 175 

Alexander, D. L., 34 

Alexander, Professor Samuel, 32, 91, 
146, 148, 156 

Alexander II, Tsar, 18, 21, 65 

Allenby, Field Marshal Lord, 37, 173, 

i?4 

Alliance Israelite, 30 
Alon, Yigal, 332-3, 335, 354 
American Jewish Committee, 214 
Amery, Lord, 34, 163, 245, 253, 334, 

335 

Anglo-American Commission of In- 
quiry on Palestine, 52, 281-4, 315 

Anglo-Jewish Association, 30, 34, 156 

Anglo-Palestine Club, 227 

Aniline Dyes, 91 

Arabs: fear of Jewish antagonism with, 
34, 39; reaction to Balfour Declara- 
tion, 37, 163, 164, 191; nationalism, 
1 66, 1 80, 1 88, 199, 206, 250; attitude 
to Mandate, 190, 192; views on 
partition, 48, 49, 51, 155, 263, 287; 
riots in Palestine, 46-8, 52, 177, 189, 
190, 195, 205, 206, 214, 219, 223, 
224, 235, 236, 241, 243; at St James 1 
Palace Conference, 244; at Anglo- 
American Commission, 283, 284, 
315; at United Nations, 296, 299, 
300, 301 ; at Yalta, 277; British policy 
regarding, 50, 52, 165, 280; W.'s 
policy regarding, 44, 174, 176, 



197-8, 200, 202, 227, 238-9, 244, 
261, 263, 265, 291, 318; war with 
Israel, 55, 56, 303, 305, 314, 317, 
32 1 , 325> 336, 342, 343, 350- See 
Churchill's Statement, Sykes-Picot 
Agreement 

Arlosoroff, Chaim, 201, 219, 233 

Asch, Sholem, 219 

Asquith, Herbert, 32-4, 157 

Attlee, Clement, 52, 254, 267, 278, 
280-1, 284-5, 317-19, 320 

Auschwitz camp, 272 

Austen, Warren, 306, 309 

Aydelotte, Professor, 283 

Bakstansky, 255 

Balfour, A. J., 30, 32-5, 39, 42, 90, 93, 
95, 145, 174, 319. 320 

Balfour Declaration: opposition to, 35, 
194, 242, 244; W.'s achievement of, 
33> 78-9, 95> 99> 102, 104, 118, 119, 
143, 148-68, 254, 260, 321; publica- 
tion of, 36, 89, 177; reactions to, 
173, 175, 184, 187-91, 193, 202, 213, 
225, 226, 250; and Palestine Man- 
date, 39, 235 

Barker, General Sir Evelyn, 286 

Barness, Dr, 21 

Baruch, Bernard, 274 

Basch, Victor, 33 

Bentwich, Herbert, 31, 96, 149 

Ben-Zakai, Rabbi Yochanan, 133, 175 

Ben-Gurion, David: at St James's 
Palace Conference, 49; discussions in 
England, 294, 316; Biltmore Resolu- 
tion, 51; attitude to England, 53, 
257-9, 262; at founding of Jewish 
Agency, 219; and 1939 White Paper, 
283; proclaiming of Israel, 55, 143, 
310, 312; conflicts with W., 264, 332, 
354; friendship with W., 249, 287-9, 
312, 326, 351; authority of, 297, 314, 
315, 317, 321, 328, 341, 355; and 
partition, 298 

Berenson, 19 

Berger, Judah L., 20 

Bergmann, Dr E. D., in, 340-6 



357 



358 INDEX 

Berlin, Isaiah, 294, 334 

Berlin: Jews in, 21, 68, 69, 94; Zionism 

in, 172 

Bernadotte, Count, 343 
Bernstein, Kogan, 24 
Bevan, Aneurin, 320 
Bevin, Ernest, 52, 254, 280-7, 289, 294, 

295? 298, 303, 3i5-3* 327, 329> 

334-6, 354 

Bezalel School, Jerusalem, 100 
Bialik, Chaim Nachmann, 19, 212, 225 
Biltmore Resolution, 51, 264 
'Blitz Broth', 118 
Bloch, Dr, 340, 341 
Bloch-Blumenfeld, Zvi, 20 
Blum, Leon, 54, 211, 219, 302 
Blumenfeld, Kurt, 186 
Bohr, Nils, 146 

Bolshevik revolution, 36, 154, 166 
Bonham Carter, Lady Violet, 337 
Bracken, Brendan, 256, 261 
Brand, Joel, 272-3 
Brandeis, Louis, 33, 35, 40, 41, 153, 160, 

164, 182-5, 204, 208-13, 319, 320 
Brenner, J. Ch., 190 
Brodetsky, Professor Selig, 233, 255, 

294 35 * 

Brook, Sir Norman, 294 
Brunner, Mond, 91 
Buber, Martin, 23, 24, 135 
Buchmihl, Joshua, 23 
Bunche, Dr, 298 
Burma, 304 

butanol. See Weizmann process 
Butler, R. A., 254 
Byrnes, 289 
Bystrzyckij, Professor, 23 

Cairo Conference (1921), 42 

Carter, Sir William, 238, 239 

Cazalet, Victor, 267, 277 

Cecil, Lord Robert, 34, 35, 149, 153, 
167 

Centralverein, 30 

Chamberlain, Joseph, 27 

Chamberlain, Neville, 244, 245, 253, 
256, 258 

Chancellor, Sir John, 228 

Chankin, 146 

Charlottenburg, Institute of Techno- 
logy, 21 

Charteris, Col. Martin, 285 

Chatfield, Lord, 254 

Chatzmann, Vera. See Weizmann, Vera 

Churchill, Randolph, 274, 279 

Churchill, Winston S.: asks W. to pro- 
duce acetone, 33, 102, 148; White 
Paper on Palestine (1922), 42, 191-2, 
227; settlements in Middle East, 190; 



sympathy with Zionism, 156, 245, 
295 298, 320, 321, 334~5> 336; in 
Second World War, 253, 256, 258- 
262, 266-75, 278, 279, 315, 317; Yalta 
Conference, 51, 277; Potsdam meet- 
ing, 281; effect of Moyne's murder 
on, 52 

Churchill Statement, 42, 191-2, 227 

Cleveland Convention, 210, 214 

Clifford, Clark, 308, 311, 312 

Cohen, Ben, 265 

Cohn, Josef, 309, 3 1 1 

Commercial Solvents Corporation of 
New York, 109, no 

Common Market, 355 

Conjoint Committee, 34, 156 

Corbin, M., 253 

Coupland, Sir Reginald, 238-40, 303 

Cowen, Joseph, 30, 31, 99, 149 

Cranbourne, Lord, 263 

Creech-Jones, Arthur, 279, 294 

Cripps, Sir Stafford, 316, 317, 321, 

336 
Grossman, Richard, 166, 282-4, 297, 

320, 321, 334 
Crum, Bartley, 282-3, 3 11 
Cunningham, Sir Alan, 45, 285 
Curzon, Lord, 39, 161, 162, 164, 189, 

3I9* 320 
Cyprus, 27 

Daltpn, Hugh, 280, 318 

Daniels, Jonathan, The Man of Indepen- 
dence, 308, 312 

Darmstadt, 21, 73 

D'Avigdor Goldsmid, O. .,219 

Deedes, Wyndham, 189 

de Lieme, Nehemia, 41, 185 

Democratic Faction in Zionist move- 
ment, 24, 75, 80, 8 1 

Devonshire, Duke of, 254 

Dilner, 155 

Dizengoff, Meyer, 225 

Dreyfus, Charles, 91, 93, 144 

Dreyfus case, 22 

Drummond, Sir Eric, 220 

Dubnow, 19 

Dugdale, Blanche, 249, 255, 258, 260, 
279, 327 

Eban, Aubrey, 240, 294, 296, 298, 329 

Eckhard, Mrs, 31 

Eden, Anthony, 52, 259, 273, 273 

Ehrlich, Paul, 101 

Eichmann, Adolf, 272 

Einstein, Albert, 42, 123, 220, 221, 327 

El Arish, 335 

Elath, Eliahu, 301, 311, 312 

electronics at Weizmann Institute, 349 



INDEX 



359 



Elliot, Walter, 254, 334, 335 

Elyashov, Isidor, 21 

English Zionist Federation, 35, 92, 96, 

97, 99 150, i59> 230 
explosives, 349 
Exodus, 298 

Feisal, Emir, 37, 155. 174, 177, 190 
Feiwel, Berthold, 23, 180 
Fernbach process, 107, no 
France, 29, 30, 32-3, 143, 152, 177, 188, 

200, 253, 302, 355 
Franck, James, 123 
Frankel, Lee K., 205, 219 
Frankfurter, Felix, 36-7, 41, 158, 160, 

174, 251, 265, 319-20, 327 
Fred, Professor E. B., 109-11 
Freibourg, 23, 74, 80 

Gaster, Moses, 31, 34, 96, 149, 151 

Geneva, 23, 28, 73, 74, 80 

George V, King, 37 

George VI, King, 280 

Germany: Jews in and from, 46, 47, 73, 
74, 91, 94, 101, 102, 196, 205, 230, 
232; Zionism in, 27, 33, 186; policy 
on Zionism, 29, 161, 164 

Getzeva, Sofia, 23 

Gibraltar, 153 

Ginsberg, Asher. See Ahad Ha' am 

Ginsburg, David, 307 

Glickson, Dr Moshe, 225 

Goldmann, Frank, 305 

Goldmann, Nahum, 186, 219, 225, 265, 

294* ?99 

Goldstein, Dr Alexander, 231 

Golomb, Eliahu, 277 

Gordon, Joshua, 240 

Gordon, Sir William Evans, 82 

Gordon, Yehuda Leib, 18 

Graebe, Professor Karl, 23 

Graham, Sir Ronald, 154 

Granados, Jorge Garcia, 297 

Great Britain: interest in Zionism, 29, 
201; policy in Middle East, 47, 49, 
5Q> 53> 55> 47 i54 X 72, i99 200, 
227, 250, 273, 284, 288, 315-20, 329, 
336, 3555 W.'s relations with, 25, 28, 
43, 44, 46, 48, 53, 54, 88, 90, 91, 92, 
100, 144-5, ^o-i, 202, 233-4, 244, 
253> 3*59 333 33.6-7- See also Anglo- 
American Commission, Anglo-Jewish 
Association, Arabs, Balfpur Declar- 
ation, Churchill, English Zionist 
Federation, Palestine, Shaw Com- 
mission, Sykes-Picot Agreement, 
Uganda offer, White Papers 

Greece, defeat of by Turkey, 189 

Greenberg, Leopold, 30, 89, 97, 99 



Greenwood, Sir Arthur, 254, 318 
Grey, Sir Edward, 32 
Grigg, Sir James, 269 
Gromyko, 299, 311 
Gruenbaum, Izhak, 186, 294 
Guas-Nigishu plateau, see Uganda 

Haber, Fritz, 47, 123 

Haganah, 49, 314, 316, 317, 345 

Haifa, Jewish Technical School in, 30, 
101 

Haining, General, 243 

Halifax, Lord, 49, 253, 254, 260, 266 

Hall, George, 279 

Halle, Sir Charles, 91 

Halpern, George, 20 

Hammond, Sir Laurie, 238, 240 

Hanita, 236 

Hantke, Arthur, 99 

Hardinge, Lord, 203 

Harris, Sir Douglas, 294 

Harrison, Earl, 280, 281 

Harvey, Oliver, 254 

Haycraft, Thomas, 191 

Heathcoat-Amory, P. G., 238 

Helphand, 26 

Hebrew, use of, 18, 30, 101 

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 28, 
30-1, 38, 41-2, 100-1, 116, 122, 130, 
135, 136, 146, 172, 174, 208, 330, 

345, 35i 
Hebron, 224 
Herzl, Theodor, 22-4, 27-8, 68-9, 74, 

76-81, 87-8, 91, 97, 99, 143-4, 150, 

HUdring, General, 302 

Hore-Belisha, Leslie, 253 

Horowitz, David, 294, 296, 298, 302 

Hos, Dov, 277 

House, Colonel, 39, 158 

Hulda, i oo 

Huleh peat bog, 111-12 

Hull, Cordell, 255 

Hungary, 271-3 

Hussein, King, 200 

Husseini, Jamal, 244 

Hutcheson, Joseph, 283 

Ibn Saud, 51, 200, 261, 277 
Idelson, Abraham, 23 
India, 303 

Irgun Zvai Leumi, 317 
Ironside, Sir Edmund, 255, 256 
Israel: relation with the Diaspora, 83; 
US recognition of, 118, 312, 314; 
creation of, 122, 327, 328, 329, 336-8, 
342; proclamation of, 143, 309, 310, 
311; American loan, 327; Declara- 
tion of Independence, 332-3 



360 INDEX 

Israel radio, 349 
Italy, 33 



Jabotinsky, Vladimir, 24, 31, 35, 37, 
40, 42, 103, 104, 158-9, 174, 177, 
185, 186, 192, 197, 198, 223, 228 
acobson, Eddie, 305-7, 327, 329 
affa, 100, 190 
apan, 88 
"erusalem, 27. See also Bezalet School, 

Hebrew University 
Jessup, 309, 312 

Jewish Agency, 41, 45-6, 53-4, 117, 
180, 185-7, 192, 196, 198, 204-5, 
210-11, 214, 219-23, 226-7, 230, 

235, 243-4, 254, 269, 271-2, 274, 
277-8, 285-7, 296-7, 299, 304, 317, 

3?8, 333 

Jewish Board of Deputies, 30, 34, 156 
Jewish Brigade, 254-6, 258-62, 269-71, 

273, 275-6 

Jewish Chronicle, 30, 96-7, 99 
Jewish Colonial Trust, 47, 97, 172, 208 
Jewish Legion, 31, 35, 158, 186, 197, 

198, 253 

Jewish National Fund, 44 
Jewish Territorial Organization, 97 
Jewish World, 99 
Johnson, Herschel, 302 
Johnston, Sir Harry, 82 
Jordan, 354 
Joseph, Dov, 285 

Kapitza, Peter, 123 

Kaplan, Eliezer, 298, 312, 326, 332, 

34 1 

Kaplan, Nathan, 225 
Kastner, Dr, 272 
Katznelson, Berl, 277 
Kelly, F. C., The Growth of an Industry, 

107-9 
Keren Hayesod, 40, 182, 186, 208-10, 

213, 231 

Keren Kayemeth, 40, 90, 204 
Kerensky, 187 
Kerr, Philip (Lord Lothian), 39, 162, 

257 

Kharkov, 74 
Kiev, 74 

Kisch, Colonel Frederick, 194, 204 
Kishinev, 28, 87 
Kohn, Leo, 298 
Kormienko, 70 

Kramarsky, Siegfried and Lola, 309 
Kvutsoth, 43 

Landman, 29 
Lansdowne, Lord, 27 
Lanings, 39, 175 



Laski, Nathan, 91 
Lawrence, T. E., 174 
League of Nations. See Palestine, Man- 
date for 

Leggett, Sir Frederick, 283 
Lenin, 26, 27, 80, 166 
Levi, Sylvain, 39 
Levi-Bianchini, Angelo, 180 
Levin, Shmarya, 23, 69, 94, 102-4, 209, 

2IO, 212 

Lichtheim, 186 

Lilienblum, 18, 19 

limonene, 348 

Linton, 255, 294, 296 

Lipshitz, Ezekiel, 219 

Lipsky, Louis, 41, 185, 219, 294, 327 

Lloyd, Lord, 258, 259 

Lloyd, Sir Thomas, 294 

Lloyd George, David: meets W., 31, 95, 

146, 148; sympathy with Zionism, 
32-4, 39, 149, 151, 156, 158, 160-2, 
167, 179, 319, 320; War Memeirs, 
1 18-19; policy, 152, 155, 189 

Locker, Berl, 255, 279, 294 
Lourie, Saul and Ovsei, 20 
Lovett, 311, 312 
Lubin, Isidore, 265 
Lugard, Lord, 234 
Lvov, Prince, 187 

MacDonald, James, 282 
MacDonald, Malcolm, 253-5 
MacDonald, Ramsay, 46, 225, 227-8 
Macdonogh, General, 149 
Mack, Julian, 41, 185 
MacMahon, Sir Henry, 152 
MacMichael, Sir Harold, 255 
Magnes, Dr Judah, 42, 183 
Maimon, Rabbi, 285 
Maisky, 263 
Makhshoves, Baal, 21 
Malcolm, James, 34 
Manchester Conservative Party, 93 
Manchester Guardian, 29, 31, 95, 149 
Manchester Jewish Hospital, 90 
Manchester School for Mothers, 95 
Manchester University, 28, 30, 91, 93 
Manchester Zionist Association, 91-3, 

99, J04 

Manningham-Buller, Reginald, 283 
Marks, Simon, 29, 42, 46, 89, 99, 115, 

147, 149, 243, 294, 334 
Marshall, Louis, 45, 205, 211, 214, 

219-21, 226 

Martin, John, 238, 274, 294, 296 
Martov, 19, 26 
Masaryk, Jan, 253, 331-2 
Maskilim, 19 
Massell, Joseph, 99 



INDEX 



361 



Mead, Professor, 197 

Mecca, 200 

Medem, 27 

Medina, 200 

Meinertzhagen, Colonel, 149, 189 

Meir, Golda, 293, 298 

Melchett, Lord, 220, 226-7, 334 

Mendelle, 63-7, 71, 72, 175 

Merchavia, 100 

Methadon, 348 

Milner, Lord, 34, 39, 149, 1 6 1, 163, 166, 

167, 319, 320 
Mishmar Haemek, 269 
Mohammed Mahmoud Pasha, 245, 254 
Monckton, Walter, 254 
Mond, Sir Alfred, 184 
Montagu, Edwin, 34, 35, 155, 157-61, 

163-4, 320 

Montefiore, Claude, 34, 156 
Montefiore, Sir Francis, 76 
Montefiore, Moses, 20 
Montgomery, Field Marshal, 317 
Morgenthau, Henry, 36, 51, 153, 154, 

265, 300 

Morning Post, 155, 157 
Morris, Sir Harold, 238 
Morrison, Herbert, 259, 283, 287, 294, 

318, 320, 336 
Moscow, 21 
Moskavim, 43 

Mossinssohn, Dr Benzion, 225 
Motol, 17, 20, 60, 71, 72 
Motolyanski, Abraham, 20 
Motzkin, Leo, 21, 23-4, 29, 69, 70 
Moyne, Lord, 52, 260-1, 269, 274, 334 
Mufti of Jerusalem, 177, 194, 205, 206, 

224, 238 

Munich Agreement, 49, 50 
Myerson, Golda, 312, 326 

Nahalal, 240-1 

Naiditch, Isaac, 20, 182 

Namier, Lewis, 255, 279 

Nasser, 355 

Nathan, Paul, 30 

Nathan, Robert, 265 

Negev, 55, 278, 298, 301, 302, 306, 308, 

327> 329, 335, 354 
Nehru, Pandit, 303, 354 
Neumann, 294 
New Palestine , 222 
Nobel's, 101, 102 

Nordau, Max, 28, 38, 68, 69, 89, 172 
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 355 
North Korea, 354 

Odessa Committee, 74, 179, 204 
Order of Ancient Maccabeans, 96 
Ormsby Gore, William, 37 



Orts, Pierre, 234 

Palestine: Jewish colonization of, 21, 22, 
28-30, 43, 46, 47, 50, 52, 53, 69, 96- 
100, 146, 172, 176, 179, 181, 185, 
187-8, 193-8, 204-5, 210-11, 251; 
efforts to obtain Jewish rights in, 27, 
32, 36, 49, 51, 53,05, 97, 175, 256-8, 
284, 297; Zionist Commission on, 37, 
1 73; League of Nations Mandate for, 
39, 48, 177, 190, 201-2, 208, 220, 
239, 241, 288, 295; Royal Commis- 
sion on, 191, 236-43; UN debate 
on, 54, 295-313; partition of, 48, 51, 
54, 237, 238, 240-3, 273-5, 278-80, 
1286-90, 294, 297-9, 30i, 305; 
trusteeship, 283. See also Arabs, 
Balfour Declaration, Churchill State- 
ment, Peel Commission, St James** 
Palace Conference, Shaw Commis- 
sion, Uganda offer, United Nations, 
White Papers 

Palestine Land Development Company, 
in 

Pasternak, 19 

Pasteur Institute, 146 

Passfield, Lady, 225 

Passfield, Lord, 46, 225 

Peel, Lord, 47, 237 

Peel Commission, 47, 48, 51, 202, 238, 
257, 284, 288, 29:8, 303 

Percy, Lord Eustace, 317 

Percy, Lord William, 82, 233 

Peretz, Yal, 61-2, 71-2 

Perkin, Professor William, 30, 91, 94, 
107, 144 

Petersburg, 21 

Pfungstadt, 21, 73, 74 

Phillips, William, 283 

Pinsk, 20, 70, 71-4, 92 

Pinsker, 18, 72 

Plekhanov, 26, 27, 80 

Plumer, Lord, 45, 200, 206 

Poland, 195, 196, 256 

Portal, Lord, 267 

Potsdam Conference, 281 

proteins from plants, 348. See also Blitz 
broth 

propellants, 349^ 

pyrogen-frce saline, 348 

Rand, Justice, 298 

Rappard, William, 234 

Reading, Lord, 185 

Rehovoth. See Weizmann Institute 

Reifenberg, Adolf, 1 1 1 

Remez, David, 285, 312, 326 

Rettger, 109 

Richter, Hans, 91 



362 INDEX 

Robinson, Dr G. C., 109 

Roosevelt, F. D., 51, 52, 119, 255, 257, 

266, 269, 274, 277-9 
Rosenman, Samuel, 265, 309, 310, 329, 

342 

Rosenne, 294 
Ross, 309 

Rothenberg, Morris, 225 
Rothschild, Lord, 34-6, 149, 151, 158, 

1 60, 164, 334 
Rothschild, Baron Edmond de, 21, 30, 

43, 101, 147, 180, 204 
Rothschild, Charles de, 34 
Rothschild, James de, 31, 34, 37 
Rottenstreich, Dr F., 225 
Royal Society, 130 
rubber, synthetic, 51, 107, 108, 117, 

119, 259,264 
Rumania, 261 
Rumbold, Sir Horace, 238 
Ruppin, 146 
Russia, 29, 32, 33, 87-8, 96-7, 151, 155, 

187, 263, 315, 325. See also Bolshevik 

Revolution 

Rutenberg concession, 201 
Rutherford, Ernest, 91, 123, 146 

Sacher, Harry, 29, 31, 95, 99, 147, 149, 

I5J, 294 
Safad, 224 

St James's Palace Conference, 49, 244 
Samuel, Herbert, 29, 31, 32, 34, 39, 40, 

44> 95> "9* H 8 * i5. l6 *> *74> i?7 

190, 191, 200, 201, 211, 220, 227, 32O 

Sandstrom, Dr, 54, 298 

SanRemo Conference, 177, 188 

Schiff, Jacob, 213 

Schuster, Sir Arthur, 148 

Schuster, Lady, 129 

Scott, C. P., 31, 32, 35, 95, 146, 147, 

148, 152, 159 
Senator, Dr, 330 
Senesh, Hanah, 269 
Sharef, 332, 353 

Sharett, Moshe, 255-6, 265, 269, 272, 
276, 283, 285, 298, 299, 302, 310, 316, 
326, 329, 332, 336 

Shaw, Sir John, 46 

Shaw, Sir Walter, 227 

Shaw Commission, 227, 228 

Shazar, 302 

Shemen, Ben, 100 

Shertok. See Sharett 

Shneyerson, Esther, 23 

Shtetl, life of the, 59-78, 82-3 

Sidebotham, Herbert, 95, 149 

Sieff, Daniel, 115 

Sieff, Israel, 29, 42, 99, 115, 120, 147, 

149, 233 



Sieff, Rebecca, 115 

Sieff Institute, 42, 46, 115-17, 120-1, 

123-4, 230, 232-3, 276, 340-1, 343, 

346-7 
Silver, Dr Abba Hillel, 182, 185, 296, 

297, 299, 312 

Simon, Julius, 41, 131, 180, 185 
Simon, Leon, 29, 31 
Simpson, Sir John Hope, 227 
Sinclair, Archibald, 254 
Singleton, Justice, 282 
Skirmunt, Counts, 17 
Sniolenskin, Peretz, 18, 72 
Smuts, J. C., 39, 143, 160, 167, 168, 

275, 279, 297, 298, 352 
Sneh, Moshe, 316 
Sokolow, Nahum, 31, 33-5, 38, 46, 47, 

99, 103, 104, 150, 151, 159, 172, 212, 

221, 230, 290 
Sokolovsky, Shlomo, 20 
solar energy, 138 
Soloveichik, 186 
Sonne, Abraham, 180 
Sortman, M., 99 
Soskin, Selig, 20 
South Africa, 47, 231 
Soutine, 19 

Speakman, Dr H. B., 109 
Sprinzak, 302, 331, 332 
Stalin, 51 

Stanley, Oliver, 274-5 
Steed, Wickham, 149, 157 
Stein, Leonard, 29, 150, 153, 164, 167, 

172, 294, 334 

Stem Group, 52, 274, 316, 317, 337 
Stimson, Henry, 51 
Straus, Nathan, 41, 213 
Strauss, Eli, 232 
Struck, Hermann, 219 
Struma, 263 

Switzerland, 26, 27, 80 
Sykes, Sir Mark, 33, 36, 149-51, 155, 

160, 165-7, 319 

Sykes-Picot Agreement, 34, 35, 152, 154 
Syria, 200 
Syrkin, Nachman, 20, 69, 70, 81 

Tchemerinsky, Mikhoel, 17, 20 

Tchlenov, Yekhiel, 31, 33, 151, 172 

Tel Aviv, 190, 330 

Terre Haute, Indiana, 1 1 1 

Thompson, Major, 274 

Thone, Dr Yehiel, in 

Thorn, 21 

Times, The, 34, 46, 149, 157 

Tolkovsky, Dr, 21 

Transjordan, 42, 193 

Trotsky, 19, 27, 80, 166 

Truman, Harry S., 52, 54-5, 280-2, 



284, 3QI-2, 304-12, 325-7> 329> 333, 

334, 342 

Trumpeldor, Joseph, 177 
Turkey, 27, 29, 31, 34, 69, 100, 147, 153, 

154, 172, 189, 204 

Uganda offer, 27, 28, 87, 92, 93, 96, 144 

United Nations: Commission of Inquiry 
on Palestine, 54-5, 243, 295, 299- 
312, 314, 315, 317, 321, 334; Imple- 
mentation Commission, 333; Israel 
in, 354 

United States of America: in First 
World War, 33, 154; Jews in, 19, 33, 
35, 48, 50, 51, 153, 180, 182, 213, 
361, 339; policy and opinions of, 50, 
54, 55, 264, 274, 281, 299, 312, 325; 
Zionism in, 30, 45, 50, 208-11, 267, 
292, 315, 319, 326, 327. See also 
Wilson, Zionist Organization of 
America 

Untermeyer, Samuel, 213 

Ussishkin, Menahem, 28, 33, 38, 103, 
104, 151, 176, 185, 203-5, 208, 212, 
219, 249 

Uziel, Rabbi Ben-Zion, 219 

Vaad Leumi, 333 

Vansittart, Robert, 254 

Vatican, 143, 190 

Versailles Peace Conference, 38, 175, 

1 88, 214 

Vilensky, Judah, 21 
Vilkomir, Shlomo, 20 
Vilna, 74 
Vinaver, 19 

Waley-Cohen, Sir Robert, 184 
Wallace, Henry A., 51, 119, 264, 265 
Warburg, Felix, 45, 220, 222, 227 
Warburg, Max, 220, 222 
Warburg, Professor Otto, 29, 98, 99, 2 1 1 
Wasserman, Oscar, 211, 220 
Wassilevsky, I., 99 
Wauchope, Sir Arthur, 45, 201, 228, 

235, 236 

Wavell, Lord, 243, 268 
Webb, Sidney. See Passfield 
Webster, Sir Charles, 78, 149, 151, 166, 

*67 325 

Wedgwood, Josiah, 95, 225, 267, 277 
Weisgal, Meyer, 120-1, 225-6, 232, 

268, 282, 310, 328-9, 338-42 
Weiss, Joseph, 226 
Weizmann, Benjamin, 29, 56, 144 
Weizmann, Chaim (grandfather), 17 
Weizmann, Chaim: birth, childhood 

and education, 17, 19, 20, 21, 59, 60, 

63, 67, 68, 71-3; in Germany as 



INDEX 363 

student, 21, 23, 69, 70, 74; as scient- 
ist, 23, 30, 42, 56, 70-2, 93-5, 101-2, 
117-18, 129-35, *38-9> 207, 228-30, 
233* 340-i; and Herzl, 23-4, 74-81; 
creates 'Democratic Faction' in 
Zionism, 24-7, 74-5, 80-1; attitude 
on Uganda, 27, 82, 87, 92, 96, 97; 
views on use of Hebrew, 30; and 
Hebrew University, 28, 38, 135-7; 
in Manchester, 28-32, 73, 88 
I0 3-4> 144-6; offers scientific 
coveries to government, 32, 35; per- 
sonal status, 33, 35, 37, 45, 191, 200, 
250-1, 275-6; Jewish Legion, 35, 
158; conference with Morgenthau, 
36, 54; welcomes Russian revolution, 
36; at Versailles, 38-9, 175; Jewish 
Agency expanded, 185-6, 204-5, 214, 
219-22; leader of Zionism, 39, 42, 
45, 103, 117, 177, 181, 208, 211, 230, 
290; policy for Zionism, 28-9, 40-4, 
96-100, 146-7, 171-6, 179-89, 193, 
196, 197, 207, 220-1, 229, 264; 
resigns over Passfield White Paper, 46, 
227; voted out of office (1931), 229; 
returned to Presidency, 47; Peel 
Commission, 48, 237-41; St James's 
Palace Conference, 49; war-time 
scientific work, 49, 51, 255, 259, 264; 
Jewish Fighting Unit, 50, 258-9, 
260-1, 269-71; Biltmore resolution, 
51; defeated at Basle Congress, 
290-4, 296-7; Anglo-American Com- 
mission of Inquiry, 52, 282, 283, 321; 
at UN, 53-5, 297-312; at inception 
of State of Israel, 326-7; Presidency 
of Israel, 55-6, 84, 328-56; health, 
54-6, 222, 264, 273, 276, 287, 290, 
3^5* 330, 334-5; Trial and Error 
quoted, 60, 70, 73, 77-9, 81, 99, 102, 
119, 137, 147, 154, 156, 163, 174, 
175, 223, 232, 237, 241, 314; corres- 
pondence, 78, 79, 81, 130, 230; dip- 
lomatic ability, 79, 80, 82, 99, 100, 
173, 178, 320, 321, 325; negotiations 
over Palestine, 52, 201-2, 225-6, 235, 
244, 254-8, 261, 265, 268, 274, 
277-82, 285-6, 289, 318, 319; leads 
Zionist Commission, 203; informed 
of Moyne murder, 274-5; collecting 
funds, 47, 207-13, 231, 232, 257, 
264-7; outbreak of Second World 
War, 245-53; negotiations over vic- 
tims of Nazism, 263, 272, 273; 
decision to use force in Palestine, 55, 
316-17. See also Arabs, Balfour 
Declaration, Ben-Gurion, Brandeis, 
Great Britain, Weizmann Archives, 
Weizmann process 



364 INDEX 

Weizmann, Ezer (father), 17-20, 23, 

27, 60, 70-2 

Weizmann, Ezer (nephew), 336, 354 
Weizmann, Michael, 29 n. 6, 50, 149, 

255, 262, 277, 336 
Weizmann, Rachel Lear, 1 7, 36-7 
Weizmann, Vera, 28, 45, 50, 56, 88, 

94-5, 130, 144-7, 227, 229, 230-1, 

233, 249, 262-3, 273, 304, 327 
Weizmann Archives, 77, 221 
Weizmann Institute, 42, 54-6, 112, 

119-25,282,294,338-52 
Weizmann process, 32, 101, 107-10, 

117, 119, 148 
Welles, Sumner, 51, 265 
Weyd, Hermann, 123 
Weyer, 109 
White Papers on Palestine: (1922), 191; 

(1930), 46, 214, 227, 228; (1939), 49> 

242, 245, 249, 252, 255, 257, 258, 260, 

266, 273-4, 277-84, 288, 291, 316; 

(1946), 286 
Wiegener, 123 
Wilhelm II, Kaiser, 27, 29 
Willstatter, Richard, 116, 123, 232, 257 
Wilson, General, 270 
Wilson, Woodrow, 39, 153, 154, 158, 

160-4, 166, 192, 199, 213, 296 
Winant, Joseph, 264 
Wingate, Orde, 243, 260 
Wingate, Sir Reginald, 203, 277 
Wise, Stephen, 185, 219, 267, 277 
Wolf, Lucien, 34, 39, 156 
Wolffsohn, David, 28, 29, 31, 89, 98 

99, 172, 290 



Woodhead, Sir John, 243 

Yaqpbson, Victor, 21, 23, 33 
Yellin, David, 225 
Yiddish, use of, 83, 212 

Zangwffl, Israel, 69, 87, 96, 97 

Zion Mule Corps, 158 

Zionist Actions Committee, 150, 175 

Zionist Commission to Palestine (1918), 
37, '73> i?5, 203 

Zionist Conference (London, 1920), 41, 
173, 177, 183,204,279 

Zionist Congress, 74, 75, 77, 78, 171, 
181, 182, 200, 205 

Zionist Congresses: First, 23, 142; 
Second, 23, 78, 102; Third, 102; 
Fourth, 92; Fifth, 24; Sixth, 87, 92; 
Seventh, 87; Eighth, 29, 100; 
Eleventh, 100, 104, 136, 172, 207; 
Twelfth, 41, 174; Fifteenth, 205, 211, 
219-23; Seventeenth, 228; Eight- 
eenth, 232; Nineteenth, 233; Twen- 
tieth, 242-3; Twenty-first, 245-6; 
(Basle, 1946, 54, 136, 289-94) 

Zionist Executive, 173, 192 

Zionist Immigration Department, 180 

Zionist Organization, 24, 38-9, 74, 78, 
181, 184. See also English Zionist 
Federation, Manchester Zionist 
Society 

Zionist Organization of America, 185, 
193. See also Cleveland Convention 

Zionist Political Committee, 150 




103692